‘I’m not voting for personality’: why this Pennsylvania county is the one to watch
Photo: Brian Snyder / Reuters
A steady stream of voters came to cast their sealed ballots at a drop-off box in the courthouse for the city of Easton, Pennsylvania, a diverse Northampton County community that could be vital in deciding who will win the main battlefield state in the White House.
Northampton County, a mixed rural-urban area of around 300,000 residents, has endorsed the victorious presidential candidate nearly three times since 1920. Like Northampton County, Pennsylvania's 20 valuable electoral votes, according to electoral history.
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It is political Bellwether County in a pivotal swing state that helped Donald Trump win in 2016. Northampton County was among just 206 out of 3,141 across the country who backed Barack Obama twice and then freaked out for Trump.
But less than a week before election day, the polls here are mixed up and too tight to call. The campaign signs scattered around the quaint county appear to be fairly evenly distributed between the president and Democratic challenger Joe Biden, as do the votes cast in the courthouse.
Biden is voted for by Shelene Monroe, a 48-year-old business analyst. "Trump has divided us as a nation, severed ties with our partners while allying himself with dictators, and shown a complete lack of leadership," said Monroe, who voted for Democratic candidates.
“Elections are always about choosing the lesser of two evils. No candidate will be 100% suitable for your problems. However, when I think about another four years of Trump I feel disgusted and should affect anyone who revolves around health care, police brutality, workers' rights, and people of color and LGBTQ rights, "added Monroe, a black woman from Brooklyn , New York.
On the other hand, but equally adamant, is Kim Boucher, a middle school teacher who cast her vote for Trump and Republican candidates for local and state government.
"I'm not voting for the personality, I am voting for the economy and the second amendment and against the opposition ... Biden is hanging out with too many socialists like AOC and Bernie Sanders who want more state control," said Boucher, a 58- year old white woman who supports basic care for all and abortion with some restrictions.
An inflatable figure of Donald Trump stands on a porch in the Northampton borough of Stockertown. Photo: Brian Snyder / Reuters
"It is fantastic what President Trump has achieved in the economy and in the Middle East, but he has been under attack for three and a half years," added Boucher.
Analysts agree that Pennsylvania is a must-see, which is why both candidates have stopped campaigning here several times in the past few weeks.
An average of the national polls on Thursday found that Biden leads Trump by almost nine percentage points, according to the website FiveThirtyEight, but only leads Trump by 5.1 points in Pennsylvania.
Early personal votes ended last Tuesday - a week before election day - in Pennsylvania. People like Monroe and Boucher, who are concerned about Covid but are afraid of efforts to slow down the postal service and devalue votes in the mail, are handing over their ballot papers from record numbers.
Trump made fracking a campaigning issue in Pennsylvania by falsely claiming that Biden would destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs by banning fracking. Meanwhile, Biden has tried to convince floating voters worried about global warming and the economy that his ambitious $ 2 billion climate plan is also an ambitious employment plan.
32-year-old factory worker Robert Fry is voting for the first time, having recently concluded that it is his duty as a Christian to do so. Worried about the climate crisis, he voted Republican because he sees Christian values around abortion and same-sex marriage.
"Trump could have a better climate control plan, but Biden goes back and forth on fracking so much that I don't understand the plan on either side. Trump is a proud, stubborn person, he exaggerates, but I don't think he's mistreating the pandemic has, ”he said.
An advertisement for Donald Trump's re-election campaign takes place when people sit in a diner in the town of Easton, Northampton. Photo: Brian Snyder / Reuters
The numbers tell a different story. According to the New York Times database, Pennsylvania had suffered at least 208,087 Covid cases as of Thursday evening, including 8,828 deaths. The average daily number of cases has increased by 54% compared to two weeks ago. The unemployment rate is 8.15% - slightly higher than the national average and twice the prepandemic rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A former heavy industry and agriculture region, Northampton County is 76% white but is rapidly diversifying as more and more black Americans and Latinos are priced out of New York and New Jersey.
It's part of the Lehigh Valley, the state's third largest metropolis after Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, where Biden has to address people of color to have a chance of winning as the former Democratic strongholds in Pennsylvania continue to turn red.
However, according to Ivan Garcia, a grassroots organizer at Make the Road Pennsylvania, registration campaigns have been hampered by Covid restrictions and some voters are still waiting for their ballots.
“The Latinx community is an important voting block that is mostly personally voted as this government has done a good job attacking the integrity of the postal vote despite the president voting by mail. Every vote must be counted. In the next phase, the ballots will be called into question after November 3rd, ”said Garcia.
The county - and the state - are too close to give her a call, according to Tara Zrinski, 45, a Democrat who is running for a platform for the state congress for a platform for fighting corruption, health care for all and green energy transition.
Zrinski, a Northampton city councilor and environmental justice advocate who campaigned against the expansion of fracking, said: “Pennsylvania cannot become a natural resource state in which natural resources are exploited for the benefit of businesses. But the people here are very independent and stubborn. You don't want to know what to do. That is why the district is of central importance and the state vibrates. "
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