Following election day, it is fair to say anxiety levels were high. As my friend and I spent hours glued to the television, we watched history write itself as voter turnout soared and swing states swung heavily. We fell asleep on the couch and woke up to still, no results and a close race. At this moment I knew that this process would be stressful and ever-changing. Who would have thought I would be losing sleep thinking about the state of Pennsylvania?
With such a tight race, it is expected that chaos may follow no matter the result. This assumption was solidified for me as I made my weekly commute to Suffolk University on November 6th. Then, I saw an area I am so familiar with be boarded up completely in fear of violence. This election has created a great political divide with consequences to worry about. Is this American? Is this how the candidates believe our country should function? Well, (in any election) until there is a clear winner and a public reaction, we will not know how the country will respond.
As a Suffolk Votes Ambassador, my hope was that this year would be different as far as voter turnout goes. I was not disappointed. In fact, Joe Biden’s total vote count has blown Hillary Clinton’s statistics out of the water. This makes me hopeful that our country is little by little becoming more politically aware and democratically participant. After Class Raps concluded in October, Suffolk Votes held a “Post-Election Community Forum” to discuss the current political happenings. Upon attending, I expected many of the discussions: the high turnout, Florida remaining a red state, and the slow pace at which Nevada was counting votes. I left this meeting very feeling caught up, educated, and satisfied.
The first speaker to contribute to this conversation was John Infranca. Infranca highlighted the attention this election grabbed being similar to the Bush vs. Gore election. Both of these elections were extremely close and anxiety ridden. They are prime examples that “election day” does not mean “results day”. There will be recounts, arguments, and patience needed from the public. In 2000, the recount was challenged due to different standards of a “valid vote” being applied in different states. The final conclusion of Bush’s victory was not announced until around a month later in December. This year, Donald Trump made several comments about the election being rigged against his favor. As he files lawsuits and urges recounts, (or a complete stop of counts) many are aware that not much can change Joe Biden’s victory. For example, a recount in Wisconsin may only change give or take 500 votes, not enough to boost Trump’s electoral votes.
Another one of Trump’s aggravations discussed was over mail in ballots. This year, given the circumstances around the COVID-19 pandemic, many people chose to mail in their votes due to personal safety concerns. Therefore, some states took longer to complete the counting process because not all the votes had arrived. Furthermore, in states such as Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court extended the deadline to receive absentee ballots to November 7th, as long as they were stamped in time. However, these votes did not start getting counted until they were all received, which made the process even longer. It may have been a better idea to follow the protocol of Florida, and count the votes as they arrived. Trump argued that this reasoning was flawed, and had to contribute to his defeat. However, Trump went on record to encourage his supporters to vote in person. So, it is no surprise that there were sudden surges in blue votes as all of the votes were counted.
The next member of the Suffolk university community to speak at this forum was Mimi Arbeit. Arbeit provided some encouragement for our next steps as a country after witnessing this election season unfold. Schools across the country should be encouraging students to be politically aware and self-opinionated. This year, Suffolk University did a great job of trying to spread voter enthusiasm through Suffolk Votes. At the same time, Arbeit notes that our country, in general, should be aware of white supremacy groups that attempt to recruit naive young people to spread their hateful messages. Messages like this impose many threats on the electoral system. For example, racism expressed through voter suppression and ID verification at polling locations. Other challenges around major elections are corporations not giving employees the day off, and limited polling locations leading to longer, discouraging lines. Issues like this should encourage people to stand up and speak out when these flaws are noticed, because in many cases it will work. Here at Suffolk, student activism got us election day off. Despite ongoing chaos, the United States managed to set record voter turnout rates and create the country’s fifth one term president. This year was historical in numerous ways, but there is still much work to be done. By the time the 2024 election comes around, there may be new issues to handle and older ones to finalize.
- Dimock, Michael, and Richard Wike. “America Is Exceptional in the Nature of Its Political Divide.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 13 Nov. 2020, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/11/13/america-is-exceptional-in-the-nature-of-its-political-divide/
- Rabinowitz, Kate, and Kevin Schaul. “2020 Turnout Is the Highest in over a Century.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 12 Nov. 2020, www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/elections/voter-turnout/
- “Bush v Gore.” Oyez, www.oyez.org/cases/2000/00-949
- Zoch, Mandy, and Brian Hinkle. Absentee and Mail Voting Policies in Effect for the 2020 Election, www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/absentee-and-mail-voting-policies-in-effect-for-the-2020-election.aspx
- Riccardi, Nicholas. “Here’s the Reality behind Trump’s Claims about Mail Voting.” AP NEWS, Associated Press, 30 Sept. 2020, https://apnews.com/article/virus-outbreak-joe-biden-election-2020-donald-trump-elections-3e8170c3348ce3719d4bc7182146b582