New Caledonia Rejects Independence From France In Boycotted Vote


Residents wait to vote for the referendum on independence outside a polling station of the City Hall in Noumea, on the French South Pacific territory of New Caledonia on December 12, 2021. Theo Rouby / AFP

 

 

Islanders on the Pacific territory of New Caledonia voted overwhelmingly on Sunday to remain part of France in a third referendum that was boycotted by pro-independence groups, raising fears of new tensions.

With all ballots counted, 96.49 percent were against independence, while only 3.51 percent were in favour, with turnout a mere 43.90 percent, results from the islands’ high commission showed.

“Tonight France is more beautiful because New Caledonia has decided to stay part of it,” President Emmanuel Macron said in a recorded video message that made no direct mention of the boycott.

Police reinforcements have been sent to the resource-rich territory known as “the pebble”, which is of strategic importance to France and part of a wider tussle for influence in the Pacific between Western countries and China.

The boycott and crushing nature of the “No” vote will raise fears of protests as well as questions about the democratic legitimacy of the result on the archipelago, which lies 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) east of Australia.

Macron noted “the high abstention rates” but said France could be “proud” of a more than 30-year process designed to settle the islands’ status under which residents were asked in three separate referendums if they wished to break away.

Having rejected independence in 2018 and then again last year, inhabitants were called on Sunday to answer one last time whether they wanted New Caledonia “to accede to full sovereignty and become independent”.

Pro-independence campaigners boycotted the vote, saying they wanted it postponed to September because “a fair campaign” was impossible with high coronavirus infection numbers.

Loyalist Joy 


Residents wait to vote for the referendum on independence outside a polling station of the City Hall in Noumea, on the French South Pacific territory of New Caledonia on December 12, 2021.  Theo Rouby / AFP

 

 

The result could exacerbate long-standing ethnic tensions, with the poorer indigenous Kanak community who generally favour independence staying away from polling booths on Sunday.

The wealthier white community turned out in large numbers.

“We have decided in our souls and consciences to remain French,” Sonia Backes, a senior pro-France figure, told supporters on Sunday evening.

“The sad dreams of an independence at the cost of ruin, of exclusion and misery have crashed on the reef of our pioneering spirit, our resilience and our love for our own land,” she added.

The main indigenous pro-independence movement, the FLNKS, had called the government’s insistence on going ahead with the referendum “a declaration of war”.

Noone from their side commented on the results on Sunday night.

Kanaks had also been called by their traditional community leaders to observe a day’s mourning on Sunday for those killed by the coronavirus.

Around 2,000 police and troops were deployed for the vote, which passed off largely without incident except for an attempted roadblock on an outlying island.

 Chinese Influence 

At stake in the vote was one of France’s biggest overseas territories which is home to about 10 percent of the world’s reserves of nickel, which is used to make stainless steel, batteries and mobile phones.

The islands are also a key part of France’s claim of being a Pacific power, with New Caledonia granting Paris rights to the surrounding ocean, as well as serving as a military staging post.

Experts suspect that an independent New Caledonia would move closer to Beijing, which has built up close economic links and political influence on other Pacific islands.

“A period of transition is beginning. Free from the binary choice of ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, we must now build a common project, while recognising and respecting the dignity of everyone,” Macron added in his message.

He added that “we will have to build a place for New Caledonia in the Indo-Pacific region which is in flux and subjected to major tensions.”

France has 13 separate overseas territories, home to 2.7 million people, which are generally poorer and have higher unemployment than the European mainland, leading to long-standing accusations of neglect.

Some such as French Polynesia have been granted large degrees of autonomy, which could serve as a model for New Caledonia.

Macron underlined how the three referenda had shown New Caledonia “remained profoundly divided” and spoke of “the necessary reduction in economic inequalities which weakens the unity of the archipelago”.

The pro-independence movement has threatened not to recognise Sunday’s result and vowed to appeal to the United Nations to get it cancelled.

The territory was largely spared during the pandemic’s first phase, but has suffered close to 300 Covid-19 deaths since the Delta variant arrived.

Some observers fear tensions could spark a return of the kind of violence last seen in the 1980s when clashes broke out between the pro-independence Kanaks and the white community.

AFP

Anambra Governorship Election: INEC Extends Voting Time

A woman puts her ballot paper in the box after voting at Unit 10, Amawbia 1, Community Primary School, Amawbia, Awka.

 

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has extended the voting time for the Anambra Governorship election to 4.00 pm on Saturday

In a statement on Saturday, the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Anambra, Dr. Nkwachukwu Orji, said the voting period was moved due to issues with the accreditation of voters in some polling units.

“This revised closing time applies to areas where Polling Units opened after the commencement period of 8.30 am. In line with existing regulations and guidelines of the Commission, any intending voter who is on the queue by 4.00 pm shall be allowed to vote. All Polling Unit staff must comply with this directive,” the statement said.

“The extension of time arose out of several field reports that voters have had problems with accreditation. The Commission is currently investigating the reason the  accreditation devices, Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), have worked perfectly in some Polling Units, but not in others.”

READ THE FULL STATEMENT BELOW

TEXT OF A PRESS STATEMENT BY THE RESIDENT ELECTORAL COMMISSIONER, ANAMBRA STATE ON OPENING AND CLOSING OF POLLS FOR THE ANAMBRA STATE GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION, SATURDAY 6TH NOVEMBER 2021

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has extended the period for opening and closing of Poll from 8.30am to 4.00pm. This revised closing time applies to areas where Polling Units opened after the commencement period of 8.30am. In line with existing regulations and guidelines of the Commission, any intending voter who is on the queue by 4.00 pm shall be allowed to vote. All Polling Unit staff must comply with this directive.
The extension of time arose out of several field reports that voters have had problems with accreditation. The Commission is currently investigating the reason the accreditation devices, Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), have worked perfectly in some Polling Units, but not in others. In some of the cases, it would seem that this resulted from software glitches. Our technicians have already built an update to the devise software to prevent further challenges. The update is currently being installed in the concerned BVAS and we request voters, candidates and agents to be patient and allow our technical staff to solve the problem.
The Commission wishes to reiterate that in cases of sustained malfunction of the BVAS, the Presiding Officer must inform the voters and polling agents that accreditation and voting for the affected Polling Unit shall continue tomorrow or at another time determined by the Commission. With this extension of time and the recommencement of accreditation where the BVAS consistently malfunctions, the Commission assures that no voter will be disenfranchised.
Our deployment has also been adversely affected by transportation challenges in some locations. It must be noted that on account of security concerns, some of the transporters that were mobilized and collected 50% of their sign on fee backed out at the last moment, leaving some of our ad-hoc staff stranded. Also, some of the trained ad-hoc staff backed out at the last moment. The Commission is on top of these challenges and extant regulations and guidelines will be applied on a case by case bases. Consequently, we are harvesting areas where voting will realistically no longer take place today, including places where substantial disruption has occurred, to enable a possible recommencement of voting at another time, in line with extant laws and the regulations and guidelines of the Commission.
We appeal to all voters, candidates, stakeholders communities and political parties to remain calm and law abiding. We assure you that the Commission is determined to a make all votes count.
Thank you.

25th Amendment Provides For Transfer Of Power From US President

In this file photo taken on December 3, 2020 US President Donald Trump speaks before awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to retired football coach Lou Holtz in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski / AFP
File photo of US President Donald Trump DC. Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

President Donald Trump faced a growing chorus of calls Thursday to be removed from office under the 25th Amendment for inciting the mob violence that swept through the US Capitol one day earlier.

Adopted in 1967, the 25th Amendment lays out the provisions for a transfer of power from a US president who dies, resigns, is removed from office or for other reasons is unable to fulfill his or her duties.

So far it has only been invoked for presidents undergoing a surgical procedure so that power could be shifted temporarily to the vice president.

In October of last year, there was talk of Trump possibly invoking the amendment when he became ill with Covid-19, but in the end, he took no such action.

Now, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer is leading appeals for Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the amendment in the waning days of Trump’s term, which ends January 20.

Schumer and others in and out of government are speaking out after Wednesday’s shocking scenes in which an angry and armed mob egged on by Trump overran security at the US Capitol, rampaging for hours and disrupting a proceeding in which Congress ultimately certified that Joe Biden beat Trump in the November 3 election and will be America’s next president.

“What happened at the US Capitol yesterday was an insurrection against the United States, incited by the president,” Schumer said in a statement. “This president should not hold office one day longer.”

“If the Vice President and the Cabinet refuse to stand up, Congress should reconvene to impeach the president,” Schumer said.

US lawmakers had begun to address the question of power transfer from the chief executive in the late 1950s amid the ill health of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

It took on added urgency following the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and the 25th Amendment was passed by Congress in 1965 and ratified by the required three-fourths of the 50 US states two years later.

Section 3 of the 25th Amendment addresses the transfer of presidential powers to the vice president when the chief executive declares that he or she is unable to fulfill the powers and duties of the office.

Section 4 addresses a situation in which the vice president and a majority of the cabinet determine that the president is no longer able to discharge their duties. This section has never been invoked.

Invoked on three occasions

Section 3 has been invoked three times.

The first was in July 1985 when President Ronald Reagan underwent surgery under general anesthesia for removal of a cancerous polyp from his large intestine.

Vice President George H.W. Bush was made acting president for about eight hours while Reagan was in surgery.

President George W. Bush temporarily transferred power to Vice President Dick Cheney in June 2002 and in July 2007 while he underwent routine colonoscopies under anesthesia.

Following Reagan’s serious wounding in a 1981 assassination attempt, a letter invoking Section 3 was drafted but it was never sent.

Under Section 3, the president informs the president pro tempore, or presiding officer, of the Senate — currently Republican Chuck Grassley — and the speaker of the House of Representatives, currently Democrat Nancy Pelosi — in writing that he is unable to discharge the duties of the office and is temporarily transferring power to the vice president.

Under Section 4, the vice president and a majority of the members of the cabinet inform the leaders of the Senate and House that the president is incapable of discharging his duties and the vice president becomes acting president.

“It’s time to evoke the 25th Amendment and end this nightmare,” Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois said after Wednesday’s mayhem in Washington.

“The president is unfit. And the president is unwell,” he added.

If a president contests the determination that he or she is unable to fulfill their duties, it is up to Congress to make the decision.

A two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate would be needed to declare the president unfit to remain in office.

Former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe has claimed that former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein raised the possibility of invoking Section 4 against Trump after he abruptly fired FBI director James Comey in May 2017.

But Rosenstein has denied the allegation.

Ex-Pentagon Chiefs Say Military Must Stay Out Of US Election

Supporters of US President Donald Trump rally at the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on November 14, 2020. Supporters are backing Trump's claim that the November 3 election was fraudulent. Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP
Supporters of US President Donald Trump rally at the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on November 14, 2020. Supporters are backing Trump’s claim that the November 3 election was fraudulent. Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP

 

All 10 living former US defense secretaries, including two Donald Trump appointees, warned Sunday against involving the military in the US presidential transition.

In an essay published in The Washington Post, Ashton Carter, Leon Panetta, William Perry, Dick Cheney, William Cohen, Robert Gates, Chuck Hagel, Donald Rumsfeld, James Mattis and Mark Esper urged the Pentagon to commit to a peaceful transition of power.

“Efforts to involve the US armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory,” they said, adding that officials who sought to do so could face serious professional and criminal consequences.

Referring to the election process and peaceful transfers of power as “hallmarks of our democracy,” the secretaries noted that other than Abraham Lincoln’s election in 1860 that ultimately led to the pro-slavery South seceding and the US Civil War, the country has had an unbroken record of peaceful transitions.

READ ALSO: Assange Faces UK Court Ruling On Extradition To US

“This year should be no exception,” they wrote.

The secretaries, who come from both US political parties with Esper and Mattis both appointed by Trump, pointed out that all legal challenges to the presidential election results had been dismissed by the courts, and the votes certified by state governors.

It is time to formally certify the Electoral College votes, they said.

They also called on acting defense secretary Christopher Miller and all defense department officials to facilitate the transition for President-elect Joe Biden’s administration “fully, cooperatively and transparently.”

“They must also refrain from any political actions that undermine the results of the election or hinder the success of the new team,” the essay said.

Trump, who is refusing to acknowledge his election loss to Biden, until recently held back from allowing government agencies to cooperate with Biden’s team, as is the custom.

In late December, Biden said that political appointees at the Pentagon, which Trump has packed with loyalists since the election, have refused to provide a “clear picture” on troop posture or budgeting.

“It is nothing short, in my view, of irresponsibility,” Biden said in Wilmington, Delaware, warning that US adversaries could take advantage of the transition.

AFP

Trump Heard On Tape Urging State Official To ‘Find’ Votes For Him

In this file photo taken on December 3, 2020 US President Donald Trump speaks before awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to retired football coach Lou Holtz in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski / AFP
In this file photo taken on December 3, 2020 US President Donald Trump speaks before awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to retired football coach Lou Holtz in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

President Donald Trump pressured Georgia’s top election official, a fellow Republican, in an extraordinary phone conversation to “find” enough votes to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the southern state, US media reported Sunday.

In the conversation with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Saturday, a recording of which was first obtained by The Washington Post, Trump warns Raffensperger that he and his general counsel could face “a big risk” if they failed to pursue his request.

“The people of Georgia are angry, the people in the country are angry,” Trump is heard saying on the tape, which was also aired by other media.

“And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated,” the president says. “You’re off by hundreds of thousands of votes.”

Raffensperger is heard responding: “Well, Mr President, the challenge that you have is, the data you have is wrong.”

Biden won the traditionally conservative state by fewer than 12,000 votes — a margin unchanged after recounts and audits.

Even a hypothetical reversal there would not be enough to deprive Biden of victory.

Word of the recording came at an extraordinary juncture, two days before special runoff elections in Georgia that will decide control of the US Senate, and three days before Congress is to certify the results of the November 3 election.

That certification, normally routine, is now being challenged by scores of lawmakers at Trump’s behest — though Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger urged them to reconsider in light of the tape.

“This is absolutely appalling. To every member of Congress considering objecting to the election results, you cannot — in light of this — do so with a clean conscience,” he tweeted.

‘Contempt for democracy’

The New York Times reported that aides to Raffensperger had recorded the call, but that he told advisers he did not want it released unless the president attacked state officials or misrepresented what had been discussed.

On Sunday, before the audio was released, Trump tweeted about the call, saying that Raffensperger “was unwilling, or unable, to answer questions such as the ‘ballots under table’ scam, ballot destruction, out of state ‘voters’, dead voters, and more.”

Raffensperger tweeted back, also ahead of the release of the audio, saying: “Respectfully, President Trump: What you’re saying is not true. The truth will come out.”

After the audio was released, the White House declined to comment.

Democrats were quick to condemn the call.

“Trump’s contempt for democracy is laid bare. Once again. On tape,” Representative Adam Schiff said on Twitter.

“Pressuring an election official to ‘find’ the votes so he can win is potentially criminal, and another flagrant abuse of power by a corrupt man who would be a despot, if we allowed him. We will not.”

Some political commentators compared the call to the Watergate tapes that led to the fall of past US president Richard Nixon.

Carl Bernstein, one of the reporters who helped bring down Nixon’s presidency, called it “the ultimate smoking gun tape.”

Trump has waged an all-out fight against the election results. But scores of recounts and lawsuits, as well as a review by his own Justice Department, have failed to substantiate the claims.

At one point, he invited Republican election officials from Michigan to the White House in an apparent effort to pressure them over their vote certification.

He also pressed Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, in a separate phone call.

Raffensperger and other election officials who have rejected Trump’s entreaties, in Georgia and other states, have received death threats from his supporters.

Under Georgia law, Raffensperger can legally have taped the conversation without Trump’s consent.

AFP

I Will Win Unless Democrats ‘Steal’ Election, Says Trump

 

US President Donald Trump claims he would win the presidential election unless Democrats ‘steal’ the polls.

Trump claimed without evidence Thursday that Democrats were trying to “steal” the US election with illegal votes, saying he would “easily win” the race against Joe Biden without the alleged interference.

“If you count the legal votes, I easily win. If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us,” said the president as his reelection hopes hung by a thread.

Trump said his team had launched a “tremendous amount of litigation” to counter what he called the “corruption” of Democrats, even as several officials in battleground states where the vote remains undecided have defended the integrity of the vote.

Biden Takes Big Stride To Winning Presidency, Trump Claims Fraud

 

Democrat Joe Biden took a huge step Wednesday to capturing the White House, with wins in Michigan and Wisconsin bringing him close to a majority, but President Donald Trump responded with fury as his campaign sued to suspend vote counting.

In a brief address on national television, flanked by American flags and his vice presidential pick Kamala Harris, Biden said he wasn’t yet declaring victory, but that “when the count is finished, we believe we will be the winners.”

By flipping the northern battlegrounds of Michigan and Wisconsin, Biden reached 264 electoral votes against 214 so far for Trump. By adding the six of Nevada, where he is narrowly ahead, or the larger prizes of hard-fought Georgia or Pennsylvania, Biden would hit the magic number of 270 needed to win the White House.

In stark contrast to Trump’s increasingly heated rhetoric about being cheated, Biden sought to project calm, reaching out to a nation torn by four years of polarizing leadership and traumatized by the Covid-19 pandemic, with new daily infections Wednesday close to hitting 100,000 for the first time.

“I know how deep and hard the opposing views are in our country on so many things,” Biden, 77, said.

“But I also know this as well: to make progress we have to stop treating our opponents as enemies. We are not enemies. What brings us together as Americans is so much stronger than anything that can tear us apart.”

American presidential elections are decided not by the popular vote but by securing a majority in the state-by-state Electoral College, which has 538 members.

US media organizations called Michigan for Biden where he had a lead of some 120,000 votes. Earlier, Biden claimed Wisconsin, with a narrower but insurmountable lead.

The two states, along with Arizona — another that Biden was projected to flip — put the Democrat within arm’s reach of making Trump the first one-term president in 28 years.

Trump claims being cheated

However, Trump, 74, claimed victory unilaterally and made clear he would not accept the reported results, issuing unprecedented complaints — unsupported by any evidence — of fraud.

“The damage has already been done to the integrity of our system, and to the Presidential Election itself,” he tweeted, alleging without proof or explanation that “secretly dumped ballots” had been added in Michigan.

Trump’s campaign announced lawsuits in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia and demanded a recount in Wisconsin.

In Michigan, the campaign filed a suit to halt vote tabulation, saying its “observers” were not allowed to watch at close distances.

In Detroit, a Democratic stronghold that is majority Black, a crowd of mostly-white Trump supporters chanted “Stop the count!” and tried to barge into an election office before being blocked by security.

The Trump campaign said it was also suing to halt the counting of votes in Pennsylvania — after the president called overnight for Supreme Court intervention to exclude the processing of mail-in ballots after the close of polls.

And it demanded a recount in Wisconsin, citing unspecified “irregularities.”

The president’s personal lawyer, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, accused Democrats of sending in fraudulent ballots. He also provided no evidence.

“This is the way they intend to win,” Giuliani told reporters in Pennsylvania’s largest city Philadelphia. “We’re not going to let them get away with it.”

Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien claimed they had won in Pennsylvania, despite the result still being calculated, and he rejected the call giving Biden a win in Arizona.

‘We have to be patient’

In a reversal of roles, the US election brought statements of international concern, with German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer warning of a “very explosive situation” that could create a “constitutional crisis.”

An observer mission from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which monitors votes around the West and former Soviet Union, found no evidence of election fraud and said that Trump’s “baseless allegations” eroded trust in democracy.

The most crucial — and messiest — contest may yet wind up being in Pennsylvania, where Trump’s lead had narrowed to 200,000 votes.

“We have to be patient,” said Tom Wolf, the Democratic governor of the state where Republican lawmakers had prevented millions of mail-in ballots from being counted before Election Day.

“They’re going to be counted accurately and they will be counted fully,” Wolf told reporters.

The race also tightened in Georgia, a state once seen as solidly Republican, where Trump was up by just under 40,000 votes.

Richard Barron, election director of heavily Democratic Fulton County, which includes Atlanta, told reporters in the counting room that he hoped to finish later Wednesday.

The tight White House race and recriminations evoked memories of the 2000 election between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore.

That race, which hinged on a handful of votes in Florida, eventually ended up in the Supreme Court, which halted a recount while Bush was ahead.

The US Elections Project estimated total turnout at a record 160 million including more than 101.1 million early voters, 65.2 million of whom cast ballots by mail amid the pandemic.

Peaceful Protests In New York As Tensions Rise In Detroit

 

Thousands of Joe Biden supporters marched Wednesday evening in New York to demand every vote in the tight presidential election be counted, as some Donald Trump supporters protested in Detroit demanding a halt to ballot counting in the key state of Michigan.

New York demonstrators were peaceful and spanned generations, with marchers heading from Fifth Avenue towards Washington Square Park in the heart of Manhattan’s Greenwich Village.

In New York’s Democratic stronghold demonstrators were hopeful but wary of calling it for their candidate Biden just yet.

“We need to count every vote in this election,” said Sarah Boyagian, part of the Protect The Results Coalition behind the demonstration organized under tight police supervision.

“Donald Trump has claimed the election before every vote is counted and we are sending the message that that is not acceptable,” the 29-year-old told AFP.

John Fraser, 47, said he’s “worried Trump is going to void the vote.”

“I am not sure Biden has won, we have to wait until all votes are counted,” said the software developer, adding: “I am worried that democracy is hanging by a thread right now.”

The Detroit protest outside a ballot processing center were far more tense, according to an AFP photographer and clips on social media.

Cries of “stop the count!” rang out in the city in Michigan — where US media declared Biden the victor — as Trump’s campaign announced a lawsuit to try and suspend the vote count, claiming its team was denied proper access to observe vote counting.

Social media clips showed protestors with fists raised prevented from entering the center by police.

With Michigan’s 16 electoral votes, Biden now has a total of 264 — six shy of the magic number of 270 needed to win the US presidency, according to US network projections.

Trump Defies Polls Once Again But It May Not Be Enough

 

 

President Donald Trump has said that, like in 2016, the pollsters underestimated the enthusiasm of his legions of supporters.

But if Democrat Joe Biden ends up squeaking out a win, the polls may prove to have been more accurate than when Trump upset Hillary Clinton four years ago.

“The ‘pollsters’ got it completely & historically wrong!” Trump tweeted on Wednesday after declaring victory before all the votes are counted.

While the 2020 race has not been decided yet, all indications are pointing to a slim Biden victory.

Four years ago, Trump was the underdog going into the election and most of the polls had Clinton the clear favorite.

Chris Jackson of the Ipsos polling and market research firm said the Trump-Biden polls “appear to be broadly on target across the South and Southwest.”

Averages of state polls by website RealClearPolitics had Biden slightly favored in Arizona, trailing in North Carolina and in a dead heat with Trump in Georgia.

The results were largely in line with the polls.

In Florida, a notoriously difficult state for pollsters, Biden had been slightly favored up until the final days leading up to the election.

An ABC News/Washington Post had Trump winning the Sunshine State by two points, close to the final margin.

At the same time, Jackson said “Trump appears to have again overperformed against pre-election polling in the Midwest.”

Trump notched up his surprise victory in 2016 with wins in the key states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where the polls all leaned towards Clinton.

In Wisconsin, the RCP average of state polls had Biden up by 6.7 points while New York Times and Washington Post surveys had him up by 11 and 17 points respectively.

With 98 percent of the vote counted in Wisconsin, Biden’s margin of victory there is just 0.6 points, or around 20,000 votes.

In Michigan, with 97 percent of the vote counted, Biden leads by 1.2 points. Trump has a five point lead in Pennsylvania with 84 percent of the vote counted.

‘Fairly informative’

Ahead of the election, the political tracking website FiveThirtyEight.com said Biden would win in 89 out of 100 simulated outcomes.

FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver said that at the end of the day the 2020 polls may end up being not so far off.

“Don’t want to stir things up ‘too’ much but it seems like if a forecast says that Biden is favored because he could survive a 2016-style (~3 point) polling error when Clinton couldn’t, and you get that polling error and he indeed (probably) survives, it was fairly informative?” Silver said.

“I think that’s probably what we’re going to wind up with once all votes are counted,” he said. “3-ish points. Worse in some states, certainly, whereas in other states Biden will match or exceed his polls. Not unlike 2016.”

What does appear to be clear, is that many polls underestimated the vote for Trump.

Not all of them. A Des Moines Register poll in Iowa dismissed as an “outlier” at the time ended up being pretty much on the nose.

The newspaper forecast a seven-point win for Trump in Iowa and he won the state by eight points.

In 2016, the polls accurately forecast Hillary Clinton’s lead in the national vote but not the battleground states of the Midwest.

“This time, it looks like the national polls understated Trump’s share and that this occurred in most states as well,” said Christopher Wlezien of the University of Texas at Austin.

“Given the patterns, it looks like the polls missed something pretty systematic, not just random,” Wlezien said.

“I’m not sure the margin of error associated with sampling is that helpful in this case, but what specifically they missed remains to be determined,” he said.

Wlezien said there could be several factors.

“For instance, it may be that undecideds broke for Trump, much as they did 2016,” he said. “It also may be that there was a surge in Republican turnout.

“Some Democrats may have figured that Biden was pretty certain to win and so didn’t vote,” he said. “Maybe not that likely but possible.”

US Election Heads To The Courts

 

Democrats and Republicans girded Wednesday for a legal showdown to decide the winner of the tight presidential race between Republican Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

After Trump declared overnight he was ready to go to the US Supreme Court to dispute the counting of votes, his campaign announced demand for a recount in Wisconsin and lawsuits in Michigan and Pennsylvania, three states which each side needs to win the presidency.

Trump’s behavior raised the specter of the election ultimately being decided, as in 2000, by a high court ruling on how states can tally votes or conduct recounts.

The lawsuits

The Trump campaign lawsuits attack a unique aspect of the 2020 election: that states and tens of millions of voters turned to mail-in ballots because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The coronavirus forced states to promote mailed ballots and change rules on how and when mailed ballots would be collected, verified, and tabulated.

That included extending the periods for receiving ballots, due to an overburdened US Postal Service, adding time to count the votes, and other steps to make the process easier.

The Republicans say some of those changes were decided or implemented improperly and in ways that favor Democrats.

In Pennsylvania the Trump campaign said it would join an existing Republican suit over the state’s deadline extension for receiving mail-in ballots.

If successful, they have the potential to disqualify tens of thousands of ballots delivered to election authorities after November 2.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has already judged the extension legal, and the issue went to the US Supreme Court last week, which turned it back, declining to get involved.

But the high court left the door open for a challenge after the election.

The Trump campaign also said it was suing to have ballot counting in the state temporarily halted, alleging that the process was being hidden by Democrats. In Philadelphia the counting was live-streamed.

And they sued over an adjustment made to voter identification procedures also made to adjust to the coronavirus, saying it violated the election code.

In Michigan, the Trump campaign sued to halt the ballot counting process saying they were not given “meaningful access.”

Can the election be decided by the court?

Yes. In 2000 the contest between Republican George Bush and Democrat Al Gore for the White House rested on one state, Florida.

With Bush ahead by just 537 votes out of six million, and widespread problems with the state’s punch-card ballots, the Gore campaign sought a statewide recount.

The Bush campaign appealed the case to the US Supreme Court, which ruled to effectively block the full recount, handing the election to Bush.

But experts say such lawsuits are only practical if focused on a real problem and the divide between the two sides is narrow.

If the margins between the two sides in that state is two or three percentage points — say, a 100,000 vote difference in Pennsylvania — “that’s pretty difficult to be litigating at the end of the day,” said Derek Muller, a law professor at the University of Iowa.

However, said Muller, “If it comes down to one state, then I would expect really serious litigation.”

Skittish Supreme Court

If a campaign or candidate sues over a state regulation, it has to first exhaust its options in the state justice system before heading to federal court and the US Supreme Court.

By piggybacking on the existing ballot extension case, with Trump himself as the injured party, his campaign has raised its chances of being heard by high court.

But the Supreme Court has been cautious over getting involved in voting matters that are decided by state laws, and is aware that it risked its standing as an independent body by effectively handing the 2000 election to Bush.

A case would put the political leanings of the nine justices — six conservatives and three liberals — in the spotlight, with the light harshest on the court’s newest member, Amy Coney Barrett, who joined the court only last month, chosen by Trump.

Trump said repeatedly that he rushed her appointment in part so she could be in place to hear any election cases, placing an immediate cloud over her.

“The Supreme Court doesn’t have to intervene,” said Muller.

“It felt like it needed to in 2000, but it’s not necessarily clear they would feel the same way today.”

Biden Wins In Michigan, In Another Major Blow To Trump – US media

 

Democrat Joe Biden has won the crucial battleground state of Michigan, US networks projected Wednesday, meaning the former vice president has flipped another state won by President Donald Trump in 2016.

CNN and NBC News projected the win for Biden in the Midwestern state, which unexpectedly went to Trump by less than half a percentage point in 2016 in one of the stunning state defeats suffered by Hillary Clinton.

With Michigan’s 16 electoral votes, Biden now has a total of 264 — six shy of the magic number of 270 needed to win the US presidency, according to US network projections.

AFP.

US Politician Who Died Of COVID-19 Wins North Dakota Seat

 

A Republican candidate was elected to the state legislature in North Dakota, despite the fact that he had died a month earlier of coronavirus, officials said Wednesday.

David Andahl, a farmer and businessman, died on October 5 at the age of 55 “after a short battle with COVID-19,” his family said on the Facebook page of his campaign for the local assembly.

“He has been a public servant for many years and was looking forward to the opportunity to serve in the state legislature,” the family statement said.

That ambition was fulfilled posthumously when the former race car driver was elected to North Dakota’s 8th congressional district with a third of the votes, winning the last race of his life.

Faced with a deceased elected official, the attorney general of the rural northern state said the situation would be treated in the same way as a legislator stepping down or retiring, and that the local Republican party would name a replacement.

It was not the first time in recent US history that a dead candidate has won the election. In 2018, well-known brothel owner Dennis Hof was elected to the Nevada Assembly on the Republican ticket a few weeks after his death.