In a year that has been anything but typical, the 2020 presidential election shattered records of voter turnout and has verged on the edge of chaos.
On Nov. 7 at 11:25 a.m. EST, The Associated Press (AP) called the presidential election after receiving the necessary votes from Pennsylvania. Former Vice President Joe Biden was declared as the president-elect with 273 electoral votes, compared to President Donald Trump’s current 214 electoral votes.
The unofficial results reported by media outlets, while reflecting the tension of a divided nation, are not the final step in the election process. Dec. 8 is the “deadline for resolving election disputes at the state level,” including “recounts and court contests,” according to AP. On Dec. 14, the members of the Electoral College will “vote by paper ballot in their respective states and the District of Columbia,” and, after the votes are counted and the electors sign “six ‘Certificates of the Vote,’” they “are sent by registered mail to various officials, including the president of the Senate” by Dec. 23.
By Jan. 6, the nation will potentially have the official results as the U.S. House and Senate count the votes in a joint session. If one ticket “has received 270 or more electoral votes, the president of the Senate, currently Vice President Mike Pence, announces the results,” according to AP. However, votes can still be contested and excluded if a member of Congress makes an “objection meet[ing] certain requirements … [and the] objection … [is] approved by both houses.” If neither ticket receives the required 270 votes, “the House would elect the president.”
The long wait for Jan. 6 has left many voters with a sense of frustration. Katherinne Carranza, sophomore international business major, described the feeling of ambiguity across the John Brown University campus. “I’ve learned a lot about how people vote by what they hear and formulate opinions from what they hear instead of actually finding facts,” Carranza said.
The incumbent Trump already has declared that he will not concede the election. In a press conference on Nov. 7, Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s attorney, said, “Obviously he’s not going to concede when at least 600,000 ballots are in question,” according to Fox News.
Later that day, Trump tweeted “THE OBSERVERS WERE NOT ALLOWED INTO THE COUNTING ROOMS. I WON THE ELECTION, GOT 71,000,000 LEGAL VOTES. BAD THINGS HAPPENED WHICH OUR OBSERVERS WERE NOT ALLOWED TO SEE. NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE. MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WERE SENT TO PEOPLE WHO NEVER ASKED FOR THEM!” Twitter marked the tweet as “disputed,” stating “Voter fraud of any kind is exceedingly rare in the US, election experts confirm.”
The caption from Twitter references a report from the Brennan Center for Justice. The report, published on Oct. 21, stated that “President Trump and his allies have been making false charges that voting by mail leads to fraud. The truth is that mail ballots are a safe and effective way to help every voter to make their voice heard, and there are many protections in place to ensure the system’s integrity.” The protections the report lists included tracking ballots with bar codes, inspecting mail-in ballots, legal fines and prison sentences for falsifying ballots and verifying a voter’s ID and address.
Marcus Hedstrom, junior entrepreneurship and political science double major, shared concerns for Trump’s response. “Trump is under his constitutional right to do all of that. The highest difference in votes there has been in a recount in history is about 200. It’s not going to change anything … It’s dangerous when the president will refuse to concede the election. If you look at, regardless of party, all of the presidents and the nominees that have come before, they have all been respectful of our democracy, and it worries me that Trump is not.”
While claims of voter fraud on a national scale are disputed, a social worker in Texas was charged with 134 felony counts of “purportedly acting as an agent and of election fraud.” The social worker “allegedly submitted voter registration applications for 67 [supported living center] residents without their signature or effective consent, while purporting to act as their agent,” according to ABC 33/40 News.
Supporting Trump’s claims of voter fraud, U.S. Attorney General William Barr “wrote a memo authorizing federal prosecutors to pursue any ‘substantial allegations of voting and vote tabulation irregularities’ on Nov. 9, according to NPR. In response, Richard Pilger, the top election crimes prosecutor in the Justice Department, resigned.
Carranza disagrees with Trump’s claims of voter fraud, arguing that he needs to have facts to support his claims. “People just hear him say it’s fraud, and they believe it’s fraud, but when you look into the lawsuit he’s putting into play, he doesn’t have actual facts,” Carranza said. “At the end of the day, he lost the election fair and square. Whether they do recounts … it’s going to still show that he lost the states he did.”
On the other side of the issue, junior nursing majors Jessica Hessing and Hannah Stucky both expressed concerns about voter fraud. “That’s been really frustrating to me because, putting aside whatever candidate it affects, it makes me feel like, ‘Oh my goodness, I can vote any way, but it’s not going to matter because someone might change my vote,’” Hessing said. “It feels like that choice and that freedom starts getting stripped away when people in power tend to manipulate things for how they see fit.”
Echoing Hessing’s concerns, Stucky said, “We’re told growing up how great America is and how we’re the best country in the world. We are very privileged and very blessed, of course. I’m not denying that, but just seeing how people are okay with the fraud that’s going on and how people are not taking a stand for what’s right is very concerning and makes me really question the hope of the future of America.”
According to a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, 70% of Republicans stated that “they don’t believe the 2020 election was free and fair,” up 35 points from before the election. However, 90% of Democrats said that “the election was free and fair,” up from 52% prior to the election.
With this increased trust in the election, many voters celebrated in the streets after the announcement of Biden as president-elect and Kamala Harris as vice president-elect.
In his first speech as president-elect on Nov. 7, Biden spoke on the importance of unity. “I said from the outset I wanted a campaign that represented America, and I think we did that. Now that’s what I want the administration to look like. And to those who voted for President Trump, I understand your disappointment tonight. I’ve lost a couple of elections myself,” Biden said. “But now, let’s give each other a chance. It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric. To lower the temperature. To see each other again. To listen to each other again.”
If confirmed, Harris would be the first woman to serve as VP and the first Black and Indian-American VP, among many other firsts.
Hedstrom expressed hope about having a woman in the White House for the first time. “I am incredibly stoked that my daughters one day will grow in a world where not only has there been a woman in the White House, hopefully, there will be a woman president,” Hedstrom said. “This opens so many doors for that. It’s cool to see little girls and little Black girls and little Indian girls being able to look at the White House and be like ‘I can do that now because she did.’ Regardless of what side of the political aisle you fall into, that is a win for America.”
As the nation awaits the votes from the Electoral College, the college-aged generation of voters is responding to the post-election season on their own terms.
Hessing stressed the importance of researching the facts. “I’ve done a lot of looking into it and digging and research because I don’t want to go by just what the headlines with the news says because they’ve proven themselves as not reliable,” Hessing said.
As someone who recently received their U.S. citizenship, Carranza stressed the importance of considering how a student’s limited experience can impact their vote. “They don’t know what it takes … to get a green card, what it takes to become a U.S. citizen, and they think you cross the border and you’re automatically able to get all of these benefits … it’s not true,” Carranza said.
Carranza asks students to not take their political voice for granted. “I believe the students who didn’t vote because neither candidate was an adequate one really took that for granted,” Carranza said. “That’s why I believe that it’s so important to use your right to vote and be the voice for the people who can’t.”
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons