Tuesday, November 4 saw voters nationwide watching with bated breath as polls closed and states began counting ballots. Many anomalies occurred; from the largest voter turnout in 120 years to states going against their voting trends, this election kept everyone on their toes.
While COVID-19 has forced the world to adapt to a “new normal,” Joe Biden (D) and Donald Trump (R) found their own styles in which to campaign and host rallies. Biden’s campaign chose to hold virtual and small, socially distant events, opting out of rallies and door-to-door canvassing to prevent the spreading of the virus. His website even goes so far as to state that “all activities are in accordance with CDC and social distancing protocol,” outlining his perspective on the issue. Meanwhile, Trump continued to hold in-person rallies similar to those he had in 2016 and interact with an average of 2 million households weekly through canvassing.
Presidential debates also took on an altered form this year, with the first debate having an audience consisting solely of Trump’s and Biden’s family and staff. While a variety of topics were covered, the conversation continually regressed back to the pandemic and the candidate’s respective plans for the future months. Shortly thereafter, Trump and many of his staff and advisors contracted COVID-19. He utilized his quick overcoming of the virus to make the point that his administration had the pandemic under control. Yet, as a result of his illness, the second debate was to be virtual. Trump, wanting to continue the narrative of COVID-19’s minimal disturbance, refused to participate virtually. Therefore, the second debate was canceled. Instead, each candidate held their own events and campaigned separately in different states. The last debate, held on October 22, was townhall-style. Held individually, each candidate received questions from moderators and voters, allowing them to emphasize their policies.
The pandemic affected more than just the way debates took place during this election– it also affected how voters took to the polls. In years past, the government has given absentee ballots to those that provide a reason for being unable to come to the polls, but this year COVID-19 gave all voters a reason to vote by mail. This resulted in a record number of mail-in ballots— nearly double of those in years past— and has also led to delayed projections and results as the postmarked ballots arrived at processing centers at staggered times. Generally, results of the election can be predicted within 12 hours of polls closing. For example, in 2016 the Associated Press, the source used to deliver information about the election as the night progresses, was able to start projecting results by 7:05 PM ET and ultimately projected Trump winning at 2:30 AM ET. In comparison, Indiana was the only state this year that could be confidently projected to hand Trump its electoral votes, leaving the world to speculate what would happen in other states as polls closed.
While Georgia was one of the earliest states to close its polls, it was one of the last to count ballots and declare a projected winner. Like many states this year, Georgia broke away from its historical voting trend, giving its 16 electoral votes to Democratic candidate Biden, for the first time since 1992. Similarly, Texas, a state that hasn’t given its electoral votes to a Democratic candidate since 1976, had periods of time where Biden was leading. Nevada, a state that many were relying on to call the election, finished counting on the morning of Saturday, November 7. It finally gave its 6 electoral votes to Biden, following its voting trend from the last couple of elections by voting for the Democratic candidate.
Despite Biden winning with 290 electoral votes by the end of the race, President Trump has been more reluctant to relinquish his title. Seeing as the majority of battleground states had one candidate winning with less than 2% of a voter lead, he has been requesting recounts of the ballots. Additionally, he has legally requested recounts and filed lawsuits against states for voter fraud. However, it is important to note that many new sources have stated that he has no evidence to support his claims and that the legal battles may not continue for that reason. As of now, many key members of the Republican party have publicly refused to acknowledge the results of the election, consequently blocking the Biden administration from transitioning smoothly into the White House. While we wait for news to come, the U.S waits anxiously to see what is next for the country.