Ask CU: COVID-19’s Effect on the 2020 Election with Dr. Mark Cheathem

What will be some of the overall implications that COVID-19 will have on the election?

It would be surprising if either major party has a traditional nominating convention. It also seems pretty clear that unless the pandemic lessens by the fall, it will be one of the major election issues voters will consider. Donald Trump’s leadership during this crisis will be scrutinized, while Joe Biden will need to present a plan for moving forward.

What precautions do you foresee being put in place in voting centers?

Physical distancing will be important if voters visit the polling place in person. 

How will this change campaigning for both candidates? 

It seems unlikely that large campaign rallies, which have been part of presidential campaigns since 1840, will be part of the election cycle this time. Social media and virtual campaigning will be crucial for candidates.

What will the voting turnout look like? How will it be affected?

No one really knows, so that’s the big question for both parties. Mail-in voting, as we’ve already seen in the spring statewide races, will become a more important, and necessary, alternative.

What will be the main points that voters will be looking for in their candidates coming out of the pandemic?

Both candidates will need to present a comprehensive plan that moves the nation forward during these uncertain times. 

Are there some recent historical comparisons for this election?

This election is shaping up to be unprecedented, but there are some analogies to consider. For example, incumbent candidates face more scrutiny if they are running for re-election during a crisis. The most recent examples that come to mind are Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, both of whom lost their re-election bids because of economic recessions.


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