Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government is preparing for all possible outcomes as the U.S. lurches into the final stretch of a divisive presidential election that has prompted questions about the possibility of sectarian violence.
Polls south of the border indicate a growing number of Americans on both sides of the political spectrum feel violence would be justified if the other side wins the election.
Trudeau has faced several questions over the past week about the situation south of the border and what the implications could be for Canada if the results are unclear or contested.
“As we watch the American election unfold, we are going to prepare for various eventualities but we are certainly hopeful all will proceed smoothly,” Trudeau said during a press conference on Thursday, noting he would not weigh in on specifics of the U.S. electoral process.
He was asked again shortly after for more clarity on what he meant by “various” possibilities.
“We are certainly all hoping for a smooth transition or a clear result,” he said.
“If it is less clear, there may be some disruptions and we need to be ready for all outcomes.”
A YouGov poll of just less than 2,000 American registered voters found 47 per cent did not agree that the U.S. election would be “fair and honest” while a poll of 1,500 voters found 56 per cent of them expect to see “an increase in violence as a result of the election.”
Another set of polls conducted using YouGov, the Voter Study Group and Nationscape found one in five American voters strongly affiliated with either the Democrats or Republicans “said they are quite willing to endorse violence if the other party wins the presidency.”
Trump has also repeatedly claimed without evidence that the use of mail-in ballots — expected to hit record numbers because of the coronavirus pandemic — will lead to widespread voter fraud.
However, mail-in ballots have been used for decades in American elections, frequently by members of the military voting while on deployment dating back to the Civil War.
The increasing reliance on mail-in voting does mean though that unless either presidential candidate wins by a decisive margin in the domestic polls, the election result is likely to be delayed past Nov. 3 because of the need to manually count all of the mail-in ballots.
Delayed results are not unprecedented: they have happened at the state level before and federally in 2000 when recounts over “hanging chads” led to weeks of delays.