US President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden are battling for the presidency in a sharply divided United States.
Trump has been focusing on “law and order,” Biden has been trying to strike a conciliatory note. The Black Lives Matter movement, and whether Trump will release his taxes are among the many issues Americans will consider when choosing their president.
As the hotly contested election approaches, Al Jazeera has been speaking to voters across the US asking nine questions to understand who they are supporting and why.
[Courtesy of Travis Hueber]Age: 22
Occupation: Legislative and Research Intern at the Arizona Advocacy Network
Residence: Maricopa County, Arizona
Voted in 2016 for: Hillary Clinton
Will Vote in 2020 for: Joe Biden
Top Election Issue: Democracy
Will you vote? Why or why not?
“I will be voting. There are about 1,000 different issues I will be voting upon. But definitely democracy is my number one issue … the United States is a backsliding democracy, which is especially prevalent in the last four years, but has been prevalent throughout its history, of course – depression, lack of franchise, all of those.”
What is your number one issue?
“Democracy, and having free and fair elections are by far my biggest issue.
“I think that at least with my education in Arizona, and then just as US citizens, we’re educated that the United States is a democracy, that it is a good one. And I don’t believe that that is true. I think the fact that a state like mine in Arizona has the capacity and is often pushed to disenfranchise voters of colour, especially Native American people, students, elderly people – now that we’re in a pandemic – and the incessant ability of other states to have gerrymandered districts, the kind of lack of independence of the judiciary as well, I think is a big thing, too. So, you know, I think democracy is on the ballot here, not only with [the] legislative but also judicial.”
Who will you vote for?
“I will be voting for Joe Biden.”
Is there a main reason you chose your candidate?
“I think there are a lot of issues. I’ll start off with voting, just because that’s my big thing. One of the bigger reasons I am voting for him is because of who I think that he will put on to courts. I am a very legal-minded person, and the current Supreme Court has already struck down the main piece of the Voting Rights Act. They’re looking like they’re going to strike down the rest of it. And I think that the members of the court that Joe Biden would put onto the court – I think that they would hopefully go further than just protecting the Voting Rights Act, or whatever is used to replace it. I would hope that they would vote against gerrymandering, I would hope that they would recognise voting as a fundamental right, as well as the thing that I think is protected by certain amendments of the constitution.
“Besides that, I think that the country is in a place where it’s finally really starting to recognise its bitter past of racial inequality and the issues of climate change and 1,000 different issues. I think we’re at a point at this part where the parties are – while Joe Biden is definitely very centre – the parties are very split on those two issues, and the Democratic Party by far represents my take on them.”
Are you happy with the state of the country?
“No, I am not. I have already talked about voting. So you know, I think the fact that we’re not a proper democracy is by far my biggest issue with the country, but also just the fact that, you know, education is something that is insanely unequal, where if you have money, you are in the neighbourhood that has the highest property taxes, which are the main funding source of education.
“The fact that we are one of the leading contributors of climate change, and we don’t really take the steps that are needed to move away from our contributions to such issues. And then also, you know, again, with racial inequality and the fact that this is not the first time that Black Lives Matter has become such a large issue, and the fact that it needs to be repeated over and over again, I think is something that talks about the ineffectiveness of our political institutions.”
What would you like to see change?
“Again with voting, I think that the number one thing that I would like to see change is an affirmative right to vote. I think that this could happen through the courts, I think that this could happen through the legislators, in either way. It just needs to happen, essentially.”
Do you think the election will change anything?
“I absolutely think that it will. I’ll be quite frank, Joe Biden was not my pick. In the primaries, I was, by and far for Elizabeth Warren. So I’m definitely more to the left than Joe Biden is.
“But I think that saying that one or the other will not make a difference is misleading and just misunderstood. Again, the people that Joe Biden would put onto the courts in itself will make an entirely huge difference. And the fact that Joe Biden’s actually willing to look at issues like racial inequality, like climate change, like voting and, you know, respect the institutions that America holds dear in order to better them for the country rather than just for his own re-election, will be huge.”
What is your biggest concern for the US?
“I think that things like climate change, and things like racial inequality are some of the biggest concerns. But I think that one of the reasons I care about democracy so much is because I think that [it’s] at the basis of it.
“The fact that Black Lives Matter keeps needing to happen again, I think that at its core, one of the reasons that is, is because we are not a proper democracy. So I think that if we actually want to address these substantial issues, the first thing that needs to [change] is America becoming a proper democracy.”
Is there anything we haven’t asked about the election that you want to share?
“I really think that the judiciary is something that is on the ballot, and not just with respect to the issues, but also with respect to its independence, as well as its respect. Over the last four years, we’ve seen a new hold that’s been taken on the judiciary. In the last debate, President Trump bragged about all of the judicial officers’ positions that President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden had left open for him, and how he was very happy to fill those. And the reason was because Mitch McConnell, and Senate Republicans essentially said no to every single judicial officer that President Obama had put [up for confirmation].
“And there has been an entire lack of norms in these last four years as well, where senators from respective states are not necessarily getting a say on the judicial officers who get put on to federal district or circuit appellate courts, as well as just the strangeness that it’s taken around the Supreme Court. You know, I think that this reflects less on Gorsuch, but more so in the Kavanaugh hearings, where we had a Clarence Thomas-like nomination. And now as well with [Amy Coney Barrett]. I think that yes, the judiciary, which is something that Democrats have not usually taken a side on, is definitely something that I think needs to have more of a highlight.”