Know Your Candidate: How each presidential candidate responds to the issues

Part One: Defunding police, universal background checks, and the government regulation of social media

Know Your Candidate: How each presidential candidate responds to the issues
Your Voice, Your Vote

(KLTV/KTRE) - Beginning Tuesday, Oct. 13, Americans will head to the polls to cast their vote in what could be one of the most divisive elections in our nation’s history.

Voters will decide between four presidential candidates who are vying for 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.

They are listed in alphabetical order, along with their running mates:

Know Your Candidate is a weekly digital series published every Monday in October that will explore issues that are important to voters, as well as the position each candidate holds.

Data collected by the Britannica ProCon graded candidates with a ‘YES’ if they responded in favor of an issue, ‘NO’ if they opposed, ‘NC’ if it’s not clear whether they oppose or support, and '?' if their position on an issue could not be found.

Defunding police departments

One of the most timely issues addressed by candidates will be the topic of police reform; notably, how to approach calls to defund police departments across the country. In many cases, funds would instead go toward social services that would work in conjunction with law enforcement to help address issues like homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health crises.

Facing increasing pressure to weigh in, Biden addressed the issue in June during an interview with “CBS Evening News.”

“I don’t support defunding the police. I support conditioning federal aid to police based on whether or not they meet certain basic standards of decency, honorableness, and, in fact, are able to demonstrate they can protect the community; everybody in the community,” Biden said.

President Trump echoed similar sentiments in an interview just days before, saying, “there won’t be defunding, there won’t be dismantling of our police and there is not going to be any disbanding of our police.”

Both Jo Jorgensen and Howie Hawkins support defunding police departments to a degree.

“Defunding the police means to stop paying police to harass, exploit, and control poor communities of color over non-criminal behavior and low-level offenses like homelessness, drug possession, and mental health crises," Howie said on Twitter on June 12. "It means investing the savings in real solutions.”

“Police are not equipped to handle societal issues such as poverty, homelessness, and mental illness” Jorgensen explained on Twitter. “This leads to over-incarceration and unnecessary interactions with the police. It’s time to #DefundPolice and let communities take care of their own.”

Editor's note: 'YES' indicates support for an issues, 'NO' indicates opposition and 'NC' stands for 'Not Clearly For or Against' the issue. A '?' indicates there was no response found concerning a topic.
Editor's note: 'YES' indicates support for an issues, 'NO' indicates opposition and 'NC' stands for 'Not Clearly For or Against' the issue. A '?' indicates there was no response found concerning a topic. (Source: Jeff Wright, KLTV News)

Both Jo Jorgensen and Howie Hawkins support defunding police departments to a degree.

“Defunding the police means to stop paying police to harass, exploit, and control poor communities of color over non-criminal behavior and low-level offenses like homelessness, drug possession, and mental health crises," Howie said on Twitter. "It means investing the savings in real solutions.”

“Police are not equipped to handle societal issues such as poverty, homelessness, and mental illness” Jorgensen explained on Twitter. “This leads to over-incarceration and unnecessary interactions with the police. It’s time to #DefundPolice and let communities take care of their own.”

Universal background checks for gun purchases

Second Amendment rights have been a sticking point in politics for decades. However, the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in Dec. 2012 and the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Feb. 2018 became major turning points in the debate about guns in the U.S.

Biden, who was serving as vice president during the shooting at Sandy Hook, has said he will continue where former president Barack Obama left off: banning assault weapons and enacting universal background check legislation.

“It’s within our grasp to end our gun violence epidemic and respect the Second Amendment, which is limited," Biden’s campaign website states. "As president, Biden will pursue constitutional, common-sense gun safety policies.”

Hawkins holds similar views in terms of regulating the ownership and operation of guns in the interest of public safety.

“We respect the right of law-abiding adults to own pistols, rifles, and shotguns. But we demand basic gun safety measures to protect public safety, including universal background checks, a ban on the sale of and a buyback program for military assault weapons, and “red flag” laws to remove firearms with the due process from individuals who may present an imminent danger to themselves or others," Hawkins said during his declaration of candidacy for the Green Party Nomination.

Know Your Candidates graphic 2 (Universal background checks)
Know Your Candidates graphic 2 (Universal background checks) (Source: Jeff Wright, KLTV News)

President Trump has said such reforms are more like infringements on the rights of Americans to keep and bear arms.

The president signed the Fix NICS Act into law in 2018 following the Sutherland Springs shooting months before the law was proposed, “strengthening the background check system to ensure that guns are kept out of the hands of criminals.”

“Gun and magazine bans are a total failure. The right of self-defense doesn’t stop at the end of your driveway," the Trump campaign has said. "That’s why I have a concealed carry permit and why tens of millions of Americans do, too. That permit should be valid in all 50 states.”

Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen shares similar views as the president, stating that she opposes all laws at any level of government when it comes to monitoring the ownership, manufacture, or transfer of firearms or ammo.

“We affirm the individual right recognized by the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms, and oppose the prosecution of individuals for exercising their rights of self-defense,” Jorgensen said on Twitter.

Social media regulation

Social media regulation has become a topic of debate in recent years between the White House and social media companies like Twitter and Facebook, much of which focuses on the president’s use of social media to share content in line with his own views.

In May 2020, Twitter placed fact-check warnings on two tweets from Trump’s own account that called mail-in ballots “fraudulent” and predicted problems with the November U.S. elections. The president later threatened to “strongly regulate” or shut down social media platforms.

“President Trump is committed to protecting the rights of all Americans to express their views and not face unjustified restrictions or selective censorship from a handful of powerful companies,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in a statement.

Know Your Candidates graphic 3 (Social media regulation)
Know Your Candidates graphic 3 (Social media regulation) (Source: Jeff Wright, KLTV News)

In Jan. 2020, Biden told The New York Times that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act should be “revoked, immediately.”

“The idea that it’s a tech company is that Section 230 should be revoked, immediately should be revoked, number one. For Zuckerberg and other platforms,” Biden said. “It should be revoked because it is not merely an internet company. It is propagating falsehoods they know to be false.”

Both Jorgensen and Hawkins disagree with their opponents, pointing to the First Amendment and a platform’s right to set its own rules.

“While social media giants do show biases in their censorship practices, they have every right to do so,” Jorgensen shared on Twitter. “Regulating social media is unconstitutional, period.”

“Political speech on the Internet has been vital in recent years to put new issues on the political agenda. One example of many is people’s ability to video police violence, sometimes resulting in death, and share it widely,” Hawkins said on the Green Party website. “This has brought a long-term issue to the public consciousness and onto the political agenda. Without the people-powered Internet media, police violence would have remained unreported and hidden from public view.”

Important election dates

Registration deadlines

By mail: Postmarked by Oct. 5

In-person: Oct. 5

Absentee ballot deadlines

Request: Oct. 23

Return by Mail: Postmarked by Nov. 3 by 7 p.m.

Early voting

Oct. 13 through Oct. 30, but dates and hours may vary based on where you live.

Data used in the Know Your Candidates graphics was collected via Britannica’s ProCon.org database comparing the 2020 presidential candidates.

Copyright 2020 KLTV and KTRE. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.