The Race is Over: 2020 Election Results

Written By: Maeve Ballantine

After months of campaigning, debates, and ads for different candidates flooding phones, TVs and radios, the 2020 presidential election has finally come to its conclusion. America now has a new President: Joe Biden.

When Barack Obama completed his second term, most Americans thought they had seen the last of Biden. However, the former vice president announced he was running for office on April 25, 2019. He began campaigning along with the other Democratic candidates, including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar. At first it seemed that Senator Sanders would be the candidate to receive the democratic nomination, with his victory in the Iowa Debate, however, Biden began gaining popularity, earning 49% of the popular vote in South Carolina, according to independent.co.uk. In early March, Buttigieg and Klobuchar both dropped out of the race and publicly endorsed Biden in his campaign. However, the race was stalled with the outbreak of COVID-19 in America. Most if not all of the public rallies had to be cancelled or downsized, which made campaigning itself difficult. However, while the rallies were cancelled, debates were still held. Therefore, Sanders and Biden went head to head on March 15, at an audience free debate. Sanders took this victory, however decided to end his campaign in April. In June, Joe Biden won the democratic party nomination and began his campaign trail against current President Trump

The summer consisted of campaigning and primary voting in different states, showing mixed results. In Delaware, Biden took 90% of the popular vote and 86% in New Jersey, showing a resounding support for the Democratic candidate. In Puerto Rico, however, the vote was a very close 56% victory for Biden. Initial campaigns were not the only course of action taken this summer. There were several debates between Biden and Trump. Results, of course, were mixed as they usually were; however, general consensus, according to a poll done by c-span, showed that Trump took a victory in the first debate. A second debate was scheduled but was ultimately cancelled due to COVID. The final debate, taking place on Oct.22, listed a victory for Biden, according to NBC. Finally, on Nov. 3, it was time to begin voting.

Since voting in person would be dangerous for some people who are immunocompromised or elderly, a good portion of the votes were cast through mail. There were still people who voted in person; however, the voting took much longer than it usually did. The country watched as the number of electoral votes climbed higher for each candidate, wondering who would be the first to reach 270. Finally, on Saturday Nov. 7, Joe Biden surpassed the needed amount of electoral votes, securing the victory for president. However, there are those who believe that there were cases of voter fraud, due to so many  votes being submitted through mail, and due to the fact that it took almost three days for the state of Nevada to submit all the electoral votes, but the answer is concrete. Biden is now the 46th President of the United States.

Halloween and The Second Wave of the Coronavirus: Are We Taking Our Safety Seriously?

Written By: Maeve Ballantine

When COVID-19 first became prevalent throughout the country, concerned people did all they could to keep themselves and others safe, whether this was wearing a mask, staying home during quarantine or engaging in social distancing. However, as we move further into the pandemic, it appears that people are beginning to grow careless with their safety.

Over the summer and early fall, countries all over the world saw a decrease in cases thanks to the diligence of people dedicating themselves to safety and the hardworking people who serve as researchers healthcare providers. These brave and dedicated men, women, and non-non-binary people gave countless hours to providing care to those who were sick and studying the virus to try and find a possible vaccine. While there were people who chose not to wear masks, a great majority of people did. However, as we move further into fall, there have been an increased number of cases of the virus. According to the New York Times, the percentage of positive tests in the city were around 0.9% in early September, however that quickly raised to 1.75% by mid October. Government officials are beginning to return to stricter regulations. Here in Maryland, Governor Hogan just restricted travel to any state with a positivity rate of over 10%.

One of the unfortunate parts of being in the middle of a pandemic is being unable to attend social events and connect with our friends and loved ones. However, sacrifices must be made to keep people safe. One of the events that was unfortunately sacrificed for safety were Halloween parties. Holding such parties put people at risk for spreading the virus or even getting sick and weakening the body’s response to infections. However, it appears that over Halloween weekend, there were people who felt that this was not needed. While there were people who practiced safe Halloween celebrations, such as socially distant trick-or-treating, there were still people who went to parties and were downright careless with their safety.

 Even if people were wearing masks, there were still parties that were held in places where the maximum capacity was exceeded. This kind of behavior is not only irresponsible with one’s own health and safety but the health and safety of others as well. Wearing a mask may keep you from spreading any possible germs, it won’t keep you personally safe from anything airborne around you. Masks are smart but not 100% safe, as is the case with most health equipment. This is why social distancing is important along with wearing a mask. It is both a mask and social distance, not either/or. 

Yes, this pandemic has been difficult and everyone misses the times that were spent being close to people and being able to gather in large groups, especially for fun and festive times such as Halloween. However, cases of COVID-19 are beginning to rise and will continue to do so if people continue to be careless.

California Receives Aid for Wildfires

Written By: Maeve Ballantine

CALISTOGA, CA – OCTOBER 01: Firefighters perform structure protection against the Glass Fire in Napa County along CA-29 just past Old Lawley Toll Rd on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020 in Calistoga, CA.

California has been facing devastating wildfires for the majority of the past year. Wildfires are not uncommon in the state, especially during the dryer seasons. However in the past year, the fires have grown to almost unmanageable levels. Earlier this year, the state of California appealed to President Trump and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to receive aid for the fires. This appeal was rejected, however on Oct. 16. However, shortly after the rejection, Trump reversed the policy and allowed the appeal to go through, finally giving California much needed aid.

The request was made in early August, following the devastating fire in Fresno and Madera counties after a gender reveal party using pyrotechnics ignited a nearby dry grassy area. Brian Ferguson, Spokesman for the California governor, revealed that the initial request for aid was estimated to be near $346 million. However, FEMA as an organization felt that aid was not needed. Lizzie Litzow, press secretary for FEMA stated in an interview with the New York Times that FEMA felt that the fires “were not of such severity and magnitude to exceed the combined capabilities of the state, affected local governments, voluntary agencies and other responding federal agencies.” In other words, FEMA felt that the problem was not severe enough that the California government could not handle it on their own

Luckily, a little over 24 hours after the appeal was rejected, word reached California that the rejection was reversed. According to politico.com, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stated that a “Presidential disaster declaration is imminent and help is on the way.”

Initial response to the rejection was met with outrage from both parties. Fresno Republican representative, Jim Patterson, told reporters at a virtual press conference, “This should have been a no brainer. Something went wrong in the calculations of what FEMA did. The fact of the matter is that they are reconsidering now. There’s a lot of effort from elected representatives and we think that there’s a high probability that they will recognize the problem and will fix it.” The statistics reported by politico.com state that “over 4.1 million acres burned, 31 deaths and 9,200-plus structures damaged or destroyed” in the resulting fires, and there may still be damage, deaths or injuries that are still unaccounted for. The cleanup project will need to start as quickly as possible before the rainy season begins, usually around late October or early November. With all the damage to the area, the rains may cause burnt debris to flow into and contaminate the nearby San Joaquin River. The aid funds would be used to clear away this debris and clean and repair areas and property damaged by the fires.

Mics Muted: Trump vs. Biden

Written By: Maeve Ballantine

US President Donald Trump (L) and Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden exchange arguments during the first presidential debate at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, on September 29, 2020. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

This year’s campaign season has been quite jarring for voters on both sides. One of the highly discussed  topics has been the presidential debates. The presidential debates are important to determine which candidate should be the one running our country, especially now during the time of crisis both with COVID-19 and racial injustice throughout the country. However, one thing that has been quite common with these past debates is the frequent interruptions between candidate Joe Biden and current President Donald Trump. With this inconvenience, it was decided that the microphone for the candidate who was not speaking would be muted during the final presidential debate.

In the days leading up to the debate, both candidates as well as their campaign teams were very vocal about their thoughts on this decision. President Trump told reporters in a statement made on Air Force One. “I’ll participate. I just think it’s very unfair.” His campaign manager, Bill Steipen, had this to say, “President Trump is committed to debating Joe Biden regardless of last minute rule changes from the biased commission in their latest attempt to provide advantage to their favored candidate.” In a response to Trump’s comment Biden campaign spokesman TJ Bucklo stated, “The campaigns and the Commission agreed months ago that the debate moderator would choose the topics. The Trump campaign is lying about that now because Donald Trump is afraid to face more questions about his disastrous COVID response.”

The rules for during the debate remained mostly unchanged, however this commission impacted the single person statements, where each candidate was allowed two minutes to speak uninterrupted. In previous debates, candidates would overlook this rule and make their own points of interest. In the final debate, it did appear that President Trump’s microphone was cut during his speech on healthcare. Whether this was part of the rules or a technical mishap is unclear, however Trump supported News outlets, such as Fox News believe this was done to purposefully discredit Trump. The president was allowed his two minutes to speak before his allotted time was over. The microphones were of course still turned on during the mutual time to speak, so both candidates could get a word in edgewise, however during the individual times, they were indeed muted, which did appear to have the desired impact, allowing both candidates their time to speak and make their point.

The debate continued as was planned and after deliberation, voters appeared to be in majority support of Candidate Biden, according to YouGov.com, with 53% of voters stating that Biden won and 39% stating that Trump won, with 14% undecided. Where this will lead in the election on Tuesday is still unclear, however these numbers may be a prediction.

Damage to Black Lives Matter Street Murals: Accident or Vandalism?

Written By: Maeve Ballantine

In September and August of 2020, as part of  peaceful protests in response to police brutality, artists took to the streets. All over the country, beautiful murals bearing the words “Black Lives Matter” were seen all around city streets. Unfortunately, on Oct. 18–not even 24 hours after a mural in Nashville was painted–it was discovered with black tire tracks and white paint splotches destroying the artwork. It is an unfortunate and disappointing event for the artists who spent so much time making the lovely artwork, and it is unclear what the next course of action should be.

This is not the first time murals supporting the “Black Lives Matter” movement have been damaged. In cities such as Kansas City and Indianapolis, there have been similar reports of paint and tire tracks. Shortly after the mural in Indianapolis was painted on Aug. 1, Rebecca Robinson, the artist who painted the “L,” awoke to an email from an unknown sender. The message was simply, “It’s starting already.” Later that day, according to the Indianapolis Star, the damage to the murals was discovered. This damage was reported to police; however, without firm evidence, law enforcement could do nothing. The same was said for the mural in Nashville, Tennessee, which was damaged not even 24 hours after its completion . There were black tracks from large car tires that, according to  wsmv.com, appeared as though drivers purposely drove in circles over the paint. As with Indianapolis, reports were made to the Mayor’s office, but once again there was not enough evidence to rule it as intentional vandalism. Sgt. Jake Becchina of the Kansas City police department, said whether or not there is criminal intent is unclear.

With all this uncertainty and ambiguity from those in authority, citizens are left to draw their own conclusions, and public opinion seems to be swaying towards the idea that this damage was intentional. Harold Smith, one of the artists of the Kansas City mural that was damaged, said in a written statement, reported by Anna Spoerre of kansas.com that, “By vandalizing one of these murals … a message has been sent that, to some, black lives do not matter and some people are willing to resort to illegal, inhumane, and outright cruel means to send that message.” Brenda Ross, one of the organizers for the Nashville murals told wsmtv.com, “It’s a little disheartening but living in Nashville and knowing some of our neighbors, I’m not very shocked that it happened.”

As of now, it does not seem that there will be much action in terms of moving forward. Becchina claims that if more evidence is found, then legal processes will be pursued against the guilty parties, but who is to say if this will happen? The best thing for the country to do is to wait and see, but after so many murals have been damaged in such similar ways, can it really be said that it was an accident? If it was not, are the people of America willing to continue waiting and watching while peaceful protests against violence are defaced?

When People Don’t Vote

Written By: Maeve Ballantine

As we are all aware, the Presidential election is less than a month away and the time has come for us to vote, either by going to vote at the polls in person or through mailing in an absentee ballot. However, there are people who, similar to four years ago in the 2016 election, are making the choice not to vote. While the arguments given for not voting are not without logic, there are just as many reasons to vote and there are even more consequences for not doing so.

The main reason that people listed for not voting in the 2016 election was that it was not  necessary, or that their vote would not matter. This line of thinking was especially prevalent for those living in states where their preferred candidate won the popular vote. It is for a similar reason that people are considering forgoing voting in this election. Especially with the COVID-19 virus making going to a polling place in person more dangerous and with the uncertainty of mail in ballots, which are in danger of being lost or not reaching the polls in time. These thoughts and fears are all logical. However, that does not erase the fact that outright refusing to vote because you may not be heard does more harm than good in the long run.

As humans, we tend to forget that we are one in a crowd. We might lean towards the frame of mind that if we do something, then it can be an exception, not a rule. But we forget that we are not the only ones who think that. If a good portion of the population keep the frame of mind that, if they do not vote it will not matter because they are only one person and one ballot, then that could cause a real shift in the voting tide. After all, one of the main reasons that Donald Trump won the previous election, according to survey information by pewresearch.org was because enough people who supported Hillary Clinton chose not to vote because they held this frame of mind. One singular vote may not sway much but there is a reason that the entire country votes and not just one select person. All votes add up. If enough people vote, then there will be an effect. And if enough people do not vote, there will be consequences as well. People who do not vote still feel the right to complain about the state of the country while feeling as if they are powerless to change it. We are not powerless. We live in a democracy. Not a dictatorship, not a monarchy, not a theocracy. One person is not responsible for making all the decisions in this country. It is the right of the people. A right that was fought for and earned with countless struggles, deaths and atrocities committed. We can continue to move forward and progress towards a better future, but we cannot do that if people don’t actually exercise their right to vote.

Yes, we only have one vote, we are only one voice in a crowd, but it takes many voices to make a chorus. Just because one voice blends in with the others does not mean it is not heard.  Therefore this coming November, if you want to change the world you see, there is one simple answer to the problem. Vote.

Does PS Hold Student Safety as Top Priority?

Written By: Maeve Ballantine

As the primary law enforcement on campus, Public Safety is responsible for keeping the students of St. Mary’s safe and out of harm’s way. However, is it safe to assume that Public Safety might not hold the wellbeing of the students as their most important value?

One might assume that Public Safety officers are there to first and foremost protect students. Since it is their job to make sure that students, visitors, faculty and staff are as safe as they can be, it would not  be that unusual of a judgement. However one thing that has been found with recent Public Safety callings is that arrival times for Public Safety officers vary between arriving in a timely manner and arriving long after an event has happened. One student, who asked to remain anonymous, suffers from chronic pain and last year suffered from a leg injury which made walking around campus extremely difficult. They were instructed to call Public Safety in order to be escorted to and from the campus center so they could get food. Even when there were plenty of officers on call and when the student in question was waiting at the campus center, which is perhaps a five to ten minute drive from the Public Safety headquarters, it would take Public Safety between 45 and 50 minutes to arrive and escort the student. If this is the case, how quickly does it take them to arrive on scene when there’s an actual emergency? If a student is in danger, either from an attack or from a health issue, every minute counts and if nobody arrives to help in a timely manner, it could have disastrous results.

Even when Public Safety does arrive on time, there are situations where they are in danger of causing more harm than good. According to an article by psycom.net, there is no mental health or sensitivity training for the police officers hired by the government. If this is the case, it’s unlikely that there is training for Public Safety officers. So if they encounter a student who has had some kind of violence committed against them, they may not be able to get the needed information from the student without causing more damage than necessary. Talking about a trauma, especially talking about it so soon after it has happened, is mentally devastating and the officers are not equipped to  appropriately handle the situation. The same can be said for when they are encountering people who they either speak with or detain for doing something wrong. For example, on the night of October 8, a group of five students who were on the roof of Montgomery hall, not for purposes of self harm or property damage, but simply behaving as college students who were bored. Public safety was called and according to one student, who wished to remain anonymous, the conduct of the officers and the questions they asked regarding the student’s personal life and mental health were quite inappropriate. Since there is no formal training for Public Safety officers, when they encounter a student with mental health complications, disorders, or illnesses, they are unable to handle the situation in a manner that won’t risk serious trauma or harm to the student in question. Rather than treat the situation with sensitivity and treat whomever it is they encounter as a person and not a criminal, there are officers who simply judge the situation before having a clear grasp on it. Protocol is important to a person in authority but if protocol is made a priority over students’ overall safety, are we really trusting our well being with the right people?

Who Decides the Empty Seat?

Written By: Maeve Ballantine

America lost an important figure in the American Supreme Court on Sept. 18, 2020. Ruth Bader Ginsberg, long-time Justice, unfortunately, passed away from complications of pancreatic cancer at the age of 87. This begs the question: who is going to fill her seat? And, equally important question: who gets to decide this?

According to the third Article of the Constitution, the president must nominate someone to sit on the Supreme Court and this nomination must be confirmed and accepted by the Senate. This is par for the course, but with the current heated political climate , one must wonder if the president will consider the decision carefully. In other words, will President Trump decide what is best for the country as a whole, or just for the Republican Party?

Ginsberg’s dying wish was for her replacement not to be named until after the election in November. However, it seems that the Trump administration is taking steps to replace her as quickly as possible. This is not only insulting to Ginsberg, but it is also a very bad idea. Political decisions take time, discussion and consideration from every angle. Rushing a decision as important as this one could have negative effects on the rest of the country. If Trump, McConnell, and othes urging to replace Ginsberg as soon as possible, rush the decision, choosing someone who aligns with their values and does not hold the people of the country as a priority, then it could be harmful to the country at large. This decision is also quite nearsighted, focusing only on what will benefit the Republican party in the near future, or over the next four years  if Trump is reelected for a second term. Even if one disregards all of the previous problems this brings, it also highlights the callousness our president has about letting the people’s voice be heard over pursuing his own interests. If the country elects Joe Biden as the next president, then Trump will be unable to put one of his people up for nomination, furthering his expanse of power.

But perhaps the largest issue that arises from this question is the hypocrisy that surrounds it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell went on the record saying, “President Trump’s nominee for this vacancy will receive a vote on the floor of the Senate,” whereas in 2016, when the country was facing a similar situation, McConnell himself claimed that it wouldn’t be right to push for a new nomination during an election year. So not only are the people in support of rushing this decision irresponsibly disregarding the people’s right to have some kind of say in what kind of government they have, insulting Ruth Bader Ginsberg by not honoring her last wish, and playing fast and loose with the future of this country, but they are also hypocrites. They are doing the very thing they set out to oppose just four years ago. 

As individual events, perhaps what is happening could be tolerable, but are we really willing to let what is happening continue? Look at what has happened so far and ask yourself: is this what you want the future of your country to look like?

Dying Wish of a Valued Judge

Written By: Maeve Ballantine

America and its people are still processing and grieving the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a dedicated member of the Supreme Court for 27 years. She was a fighter for equality and used her power to make this country great. Before she died, she dictated a note to her granddaughter, Clara Spera that, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” This information was passed from Spera to NPR reporter Nina Totenberg, long time friend to Ginsberg and her family according to the New York Times.

What came after, however, was utterly appalling. President Trump, during an interview with “Fox & Friends” claimed that the dying wish was fabricated by a Democratic official, naming Adam Schiff, Chuck Schumer, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as possibilities. The rumors are still speculative but the people he named are protesting both his accusations and the utter pettiness and stupidity of the claim. Senator Adam Schiff tweeted on September 21, “Mr. President, this is low. Even for you. No, I didn’t write Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dying wish to a nation she served so well, and spent her whole life making a more perfect union. But I am going to fight like hell to make it come true. No confirmation before inauguration.”

There have been other attempts to devalue the final wish of Ginsberg, such as claiming her granddaughter, to whom the final wish was dictated, was simply an eight-year-old child, despite the fact that in reality, Spera is an adult and is currently a Equal Justice Works Fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union. 

The fact of the matter is, even with the frankly childish attempts to discredit Ginsberg by belittling her last wish, it still remains that she wanted the responsibility of choosing her replacement to be carried out after the people have spoken and chosen to either keep Trump in the White House or replace him with someone else. A request that is not being met.

There are those in the Republican party, namely Mitch McConnell, who are trying to rush the process, making the replacement process happen before the election in November. In other words, while we still have President Trump in the White House.

Not only is the petty and immature, but it is incredibly insulting and a low blow to the final wish of an intelligent and dedicated person. By denying the people the chance to choose who they feel is the better choice for president, McConnell and those who are like minded on this matter are also denying Ruth Bader Ginsberg her final wish. Ginsberg fought for the people of this country, all people of this country not just those who thought like her or her opponents, to have their chance to choose who they felt is the most responsible to make the choices that affect this country, including who sits on the supreme court. But is that happening? Can we as a people honestly say that Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s last wish is being honored?

Life and Death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Written By: Maeve Ballantine

On Sept. 18, 2020, at the age of 87, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, long-time judge of the Supreme Court, passed away from complications due to pancreatic cancer. As the country mourns for Ginsberg, it is important to consider who she was, what she stood for, and how we as a country plan to move forward.

Born Joan Ruth Bader on March 15, 1933, to Celia and Nathan Bader, she demonstrated her determinination in her dedication as a student. She later would only go by her middle name since there were numerous “Joans” in her class. Her mother would often take her to the library and took an active role in her daughter’s learning. Since she was unable to attend college, Celia wanted her children, especially her daughters, to be able to get a proper education. Bader attended Cornell University, graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in June of 1954, and later began studying law at Harvard, one of only 9 women in her class. It was during this time at Harvard that Bader was asked, along with the other women in her class, “Why are you here at Harvard taking the place of a man?”

Still determined to study law, Bader, now married to Martin D. Ginsberg continued to study at Harvard. She later transferred to Columbia University, after moving to New York, and graduated in 1959, tied as first to her class.

Her early career saw her teaching law procedure at Rutgers Law School, receiving tenure in 1969. In 1970, she co-founded the Women’s Rights Law Reporter. Later when she taught at Colombia, receiving tenure there as well, she co-authored the first law school casebook on sex discrimination, something Bader was very passionate about throughout her career. She continued this path of advocacy while she worked in academia, helping to found Women’s Rights Project in 1972 and charted a course that focused on discrimination in the legal world and how it can be dismantled.

She also wrote the briefings for several impactful Supreme Court Cases, including Roe v. Wade in 1973 and Reed v. Reed in 1971. 

When her legal work began to gain attention, she was nominated for DC Circuit court in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter and confirmed by the Supreme Court. Later, in 1993, she was nominated and elected to the Supreme Court.

Ginsberg’s time as Justice was spent continuing her fight for equality and against discrimination on the account of sex and gender, fighting against the Virginia Military Institute’s refusal to allow women into the program, in 1996. She also was not opposed to voicing her disagreement with the Court’s final decisions, such as with the case of Ledbetter v. Goodyear. 

One thing she was especially passionate about was that the American people had the chance to make their voices heard and their rights protected. This was especially shown through her last wish, where she dictated to her granddaughter, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

With Ruth Bader Ginsberg gone, is this a new era in American justice? Will we move forward or will we move back? At a time where the political climate is especially uncertain and turbulent, it’s more important than ever that we don’t forget what Ginsberg stood for.