Latest Issue

County Hall Corner: Seven States and 20,000 Votes

Seven has been called a magic number. There are seven days a week, seven colors in the rainbow, seven musical notes in a scale, seven wonders of the ancient world, seven continents, seven major seas, and even psychologists tell us we can only take in seven ‘bits’ of information at one time. So, it is not exactly a surprise that the 2024 US presidential election will revolve around seven swing states: Nevada (6 electoral college votes), Wisconsin (10), Arizona (11), Michigan (15), Georgia (16), North Carolina (16), and last but not least but actually the most — Pennsylvania (19 electoral college votes). Yes, the Keystone State will be living up to its name, as Pennsylvania really is the key to this year’s presidential election.

Pennsylvania will also be a knock-down-drag-out electoral battlefield because this is currently the only state that Donald Trump is not leading among these seven swing states. According to the electoral prognosticators, Trump could win the election without Pennsylvania, but Biden definitely could not. Thus, if Trump does win our state, he almost surely would win it all.

And to add to the electoral drama, it appears that the United States has never been as evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats as it is right now. The latest polls have the two parties less than one percentage point apart. Yes, there may be a number of fake votes, but officially, 158.4 million people voted in the 2020 United States presidential election. This was the highest voter turnout in over a century, with about 66.7% of eligible voters participating.

However, the US Constitution does not recognize the popular vote but rather the electoral college vote. Our Founding Fathers put this into the Constitution so that small states would be represented, as would large states, and rural areas would be considered, as would major cities. There is a strong movement right now to eliminate the electoral college system. Truth be told, without the Electoral College, presidential campaigns would only need to focus their attention toward the ten largest states.

Five times in American history, the presidential candidate won the electoral college vote while receiving fewer popular votes than their opponent. The most recent was in the 2000 election of George W. Bush and the 2016 election of Donald Trump, which brings us to the 20,000 votes that are going to decide this year’s presidential winner.

Each of those seven battlefield swing states can flip one way or another with relatively few votes. In Wisconsin, for example, Donald Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 by fewer than 23,000 votes, which turned out to be the key to Trump’s victory. But then, in 2020, Joe Biden defeated Trump by just over 20,000 votes in Wisconsin, resulting in Biden’s overall victory.

In the 2020 election, Nevada went to Biden by 2.4%, as did Wisconsin by 0.6%, Arizona by 0.3%, and (with some suspicion…) Georgia by 0.2%. Trump took Michigan by 0.6% and North Carolina by 1.3%. The key to Biden’s victory was Pennsylvania’s 6,152,521 total votes with Biden winning 50.3% to Trump’s 49.0% — a difference of just 1.3%. If 20,000 votes of those six million plus votes had gone to Trump rather than Biden, he would have won the election.

Pennsylvania is not called the Keystone State for nothing. Going all the way back to George Washington, in every presidential election since then, Pennsylvania has gone for the eventual winner in every election except for Tom Dewey over Harry Truman in 1948 and Al Gore over George W. Bush in 2000.

This brings us to the recent primary election this past week; barely 30 percent of voters from Lycoming County made it to the polls. That number was quite low, which is not necessarily unusual given that there were not any particularly competitive races in the key positions or referendums to vote on. So, OK, we will give our local voter constituency a pass this time. But get your voting shoes on in November. You may be just one of six or even seven million other Pennsylvania voters, but your vote may be one of the 20,000 that swings the gate one way or the other.

Lycoming County has 70,599 registered voters, of which 42,276 are Republicans, 18,622 are Democrats, and another 9,701 are not sure what they are; they just don’t want to be affiliated with one of the two major parties. Within those 47,100 voters who did not vote in the recent primary could be the 20,000 votes that might tip the scales one way or the other. Your vote will never be more important than it will be this November.