Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Collegedale residents line up at town hall for early voting in October.

Here's to hoping things will calm down after the election.

And here's to hoping we won't have to report and read more stories like the one about the backhoe thief in Haines City, Florida, who was arrested after he allegedly heisted an earth-moving machine and careened across the central Florida town digging up Biden-Harris campaign signs at more than one home and making a bigly mess of several front yards.

Police charged 26-year-old James Blight, 26, with grand theft auto and trespassing.

"Blight told police that he had been drinking whiskey all day and did not remember most of the day," according to police information officer Mike Ferguson. "He said that he couldn't help but hit the Joe Biden signs and acknowledged to taking down a fence in the process. Blight said he did not know how to operate the equipment."

But neighbors in the minority neighborhood weren't buying it. Cornelius Marion saw some of the action and began a slow motion backhoe chase across town to follow Blight. Along the way, he called police.

Marion later told NBC News: "He revved up the engine and rammed the fence," He said he saw the driver scooping up the yard and the Biden-Harris campaign sign atop it. "I thought: 'That doesn't look right. I jumped into my truck and called 911 and followed him along, and the whole time he's riding down the road, he's yelling at people, cussing them out."

A reporter for Bay News 9 later posted a video on Twitter showing that the family of one of the victims responded by planting 20 more Biden-Harris campaign signs in their yard.


But it may take a while

But we have to be realistic. Election officials warned for much of last week that the increase in mail voting because of the pandemic is expected to push back the release of full results in many key states.

The New York Times has reported that only eight states expect to have at least 98% of unofficial results reported by noon the day after the election. And 22 states and the District of Columbia allow postmarked ballots to arrive after Election Day, so the timing will depend on when voters return them.

New York and Alaska will not report any mail votes on election night. Officials in Michigan and Pennsylvania, two key battleground states, have said full official counts could take several days.

Georgia, a toss-up state, said it could be a couple of days before the mail ballots could all be scanned and counted.

Tennessee officials told The Times they could not predict when they would have a full count, but hoped that more than 99% of votes would be reported by noon Wednesday.

Let's all cross our fingers.


What of the economy?

The Washington Post notes that a decline in the stock market has been one of several "October surprises" in this election. On Friday, stocks wrapped up their worst week since March.

The sell-off, according to analysts, has been driven by the rising number of new COVID-19 infections and the growing recognition that a gridlocked Washington will not deliver coronavirus relief anytime soon.

But that's not all. Despite GDP growth, polls suggest Trump's advantage on economic stewardship is narrowing

"Trump's failure to negotiate a coronavirus relief deal with Congress before the election, record-breaking surges in new COVID-19 infections, a tanking stock market, declining consumer confidence in battleground states and ominous layoff announcements appear to have taken at least a marginal toll on what has been his biggest polling advantage amid the pandemic: perceived competency at managing the economy," according to The Post.

Trump bragged about the economy growing at 7.4% between July and September, recovering about two-thirds of its losses during the first half of the year.

We're all glad for that, but — again, let's be realistic — the gross domestic product is now about the size it was in the first quarter of 2018.

Experts say the growing virus hospitalizations and deaths, combined with uncertainty about when another stimulus bill might pass, leave the country — and right now, voters — with doubts.

The Trump team claims it has put its focus on the economy, rather than the virus, but Joe Biden has repeatedly countered that America must get control of the contagion in order for the economy to fully revitalize.

And Biden, unlike Trump, is not promising the moon.

"Even if I win, it's going to take a lot of hard work to end this pandemic," Biden said in Wilmington, Del. "I'm not running on the false promise of being able to end this pandemic by flipping a switch. We will deal honestly with the American people, and we'll never, ever, ever quit. That's how we'll shut down this virus so we can get back to our lives a lot more quickly than the pace we're going now."

Let's hope this week — and a win for Joe Biden — can help times look up.