In conversation with Dhaka Tribune, a 30-year-old working mother shares her views on the US presidential election
Shahela Jahan cast her vote at a polling booth at the New York City College of Technology in Brooklyn on Saturday.
One of the 95 million US citizens who have voted early, she was very excited about exercising her franchise for the first time in her life.
Before moving to New York in 2014 with her husband and daughter, the Dhaka University graduate had not had the chance to vote in any of the parliamentary or local elections in Bangladesh.
The 30-year-old, who lives with her family in Brooklyn, now works as a senior analyst at a consulting firm, after she became a naturalized US citizen in 2018.
Her family members also voted on Saturday, two days before Election Day when the country will vote to choose its next president amid the raging Covid-19 pandemic that has killed over 231,000 Americans so far.
The last day for early voting in New York was Sunday. Shahela said she did not wait more than 10-15 minutes to cast her vote. "I was excited to vote for the first time. There was no problem. It was simple, easy and quick for us.
"But it's possible that people will have to wait a couple of hours on November 3, since many will choose Election Day to vote."
She said she saw that most of the African-American and Hispanic citizens of New York were also eager to cast their votes early, compared to their interest in past elections — presidential or local.
"That was great to see. They know what their right is and what they should do this time around," Shahela said.
She identifies herself as a Democrat, but, with a laugh, said she would not say who she had voted for — Donald Trump or Joe Biden. She, however, voiced strong opinions and criticisms regarding both presidential candidates while talking to Dhaka Tribune.
Until Monday, Reuters has reported, more than 95 million early votes had been cast either in person or by mail, according to the US Elections Project.
Just a day before Election Day, it said, the record-breaking number is equal to 69% of the entire voter turnout for the 2016 election and represents about 40% of all Americans who are legally eligible to vote.
This unprecedented level of early voting includes 60 million mail-in ballots that could take days or weeks to be counted in some states, meaning a winner might not be declared in the hours after polls close on Tuesday night, reports Reuters.
Experts predict that turnout will easily surpass the 138 million who voted in 2016. Only 47 million votes were submitted before Election Day four years ago.
Republican Trump trails Democrat Biden in national opinion polls ahead of Tuesday's Election Day. But the race is seen as close in enough swing states and that Trump could still piece together the 270 votes needed to prevail in the state-by-state Electoral College that determines the winner.
Weighing the options
"I don't like any of the two presidential candidates. It's basically like choosing the lesser of two evils," Shahela said while talking about choosing between Trump and Biden.
"You see, Trump always thinks and talks like a businessman. He's never a polite man. But in the last presidential debate, he showed a lot of improvements.
"I was very surprised to see how calm and quietly he behaved," she added and grinned.
"He [Trump] always presents everything negatively. We know how badly the Trump administration has handled the coronavirus pandemic. If he's elected, who knows what will happen in the coming days!"
Shahela continued: "Having said that, if we look at the last three years, the job sector and stock market — the US economy in general — everything was booming after Trump took office. Many will say he inherited that from the Obama administration, and that's fine."
"But if we look at Biden's record, what did he do when Barack Obama was president? Obama led all the developments as president during his two terms. What did Biden do as vice president? Most of the credit goes to Obama."
She added: "I also don't like how Biden is always talking about the Affordable Care Act (AFA). I mean what's the point? Obama already has made sure that it will ensure proper healthcare, cover everything. His [Biden] plan to rename Obamacare to Bidencare is also unnecessary.
"He says he has plans to ensure healthcare for all, but he wasn't able to share the details clearly during the last presidential debate. Compared to him, VP candidate Kamala Harris did a better job in explaining their plan with AFA during her debate against Mike Pence."
"But during the last debate one thing Biden said, which I liked, was that it doesn't matter who votes for him or doesn't, if he gets elected, he'll be the president for all the people. That's what matters. Trump should think like that too."
"A president is a leader, and a leader should think like that, prioritizing the people," she added.
Responding to a question regarding the local Bangladeshi community's thoughts on the election, Shahela said it was kind of a 50-50 matter.
"They have their reasons to support either Trump or Biden. Some of them sometimes share those reasons, some don't.
"But people mostly care about finding out who will do the best job in protecting them and reviving the economy amid this coronavirus pandemic. That's my first concern too," she said.
The pandemic has been an utter disaster, she said, adding: "We just want to be safe and move on with our life."
Up in the air
Asked who she thought would win, Shahela said that she was not sure who would become the next president.
"It's quite unpredictable and up in the air right now, you know? It could go either way. But I think Trump has a better chance of getting re-elected. He has a strong base, somehow.
"The number of Republicans around the country is not small compared to Democrats. Moreover, I've seen that many old Democrats have voted for Trump. Based on these and what I've been seeing in the mass media, I feel like Trump has a 51% chance of winning and Biden 49%," she said.
She added that many Democrats were also choosing Trump because of his stance against China and his strong opinions on similar geopolitical issues — because they feared Biden would not be able to maintain US superiority in the global arena.
The working mother of one also expressed some worry. "This time around, we are hearing that some post-election violence may take place, as it does in Bangladesh, whoever wins. We have never faced anything like that before here. We are concerned about this."