On Nov. 3, 2020, the United States experienced an Election Day that will undoubtedly go down in history. Amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and against the backdrop of unprecedented political polarization, Republican incumbent President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee former-Vice President Joe Biden battled at polls across the nation.
Due to the continuing threat COVID-19 poses in the United States, many voters chose to use mail-in ballots during this election cycle. Most states were unprepared for this volume of absentee ballots and count ing stretched into the days beyond Nov. 3.
This uniquely protracted election meant that the country did not know the victor of the presidential election until Saturday, Nov. 7 when the Associated Press (AP) called Pennsylvania, and the presidency, for Biden. The days between Nov. 3 and Nov. 7 were particularly stressful for a number of Colby students.
“After the election when the results still weren’t clear, I was so anxious,” Morgan Honor `22 said. “I checked the election results every ten minutes and could barely focus on my school work.”
Trevor Gava `23 shared this concern after Trump had clinched the toss- up state of Florida in a repudiation of the pre- election polling.
“I [had] felt confident in a Biden win. All the polls were indicating he’d win and I felt the same way,” Gava explained. “I started to get nervous the day after when the results still were not favoring Biden but began to calm down as all the experts were saying a Biden victory was contingent on mail-in ballots that were set to be counted soon.”
Despite major news outlets like the AP, The New York Times, CNN, and Fox News all projecting Biden as the winner of the election, Trump has not conceded the race. Indeed, Trump, with the tacit blessing of major Republican figures that have remained silent on the issue of the election’s outcome, appears to be disputing the results.
Joseph Reisert, the Harriet S. Wiswell and George C. Wiswell Jr. Associate Professor of American Constitutional Law, described his view of the current election situation.
“The outcome of the election is undetermined, in the way that a football game is undetermined, when one team has a two touchdown lead with a minute left to play. If you were watching that game, you’d ‘call’ it for the team with the lead, but there remains some slight chance that the other team might win, if everything broke just right for them,” Reisert explained. “Biden feels sure he won, and he’s almost certainly right and ought to be acting like the president-elect. Trump’s still got a very outside chance and has no reason not to pursue every available channel of legal recourse until the truly final results are in.”
Trump’s Attorney General William Barr recently authorized U.S. attorneys to open election-fraud investigations if they uncover credible instances of election irregularities. Reisert also commented on the possibility that legal actions through investigations or lawsuits could alter the election’s outcome.
“The key questions are whether the irregularities they allege even affect enough votes to change the outcome and whether they have any hard evidence to establish to the satisfaction of the courts that any of the wrongdoing they believe to have occurred has actually happened,” Reisert said. “That’s an extremely high bar to clear. I haven’t yet seen anything to make me think they’ll win those lawsuits.”
In light of Biden’s victory, many Americans across the country and in the Colby community feel a renewed sense of hope in the aftermath of the election. Gava identified one of the potential positive impacts that may accompany an incoming Biden administration as “a return to decency.”
When asked about what goals may have attracted voters to Biden, Gava explained that a significant part of his hopes for the incoming Biden administration lay in confronting COVID-19.
“We have not had a plan for the past year, and I am hopeful Biden will listen to scientists and implement smart legislation that protects the country,” Gava said. “After [COVID-19] has been resolved, most likely after the vaccine has been distributed to a sufficient population, there are many issues that need to be tackled.”
However, Professor and Chair of the Government Department Daniel Shea cautioned that depending on the outcome of the two Georgia senate run-off elections in January, many of Biden’s programs and policies might be hindered by a divided government.
“Politics is so divided these days. We might hope that the two parties could work together to find common ground, but it’s likely that each will hold firm and little will get done,” Shea said. “Will Mitch McConnell want to compromise? It’s hard to say, but if history is any guide I would say no.”
Regardless of Biden’s actions in office, Honor is hopeful for the country’s future.
“I think Biden is a gateway president to more change,” Honor explained. “I hope that this country becomes less divided, and that we can start having dialogue about actual policies and not morality issues like the last four years.”
Despite the polarization and uncertainty that clouds America’s future, one thing remains certain: all eyes are fixed on the ascendant Biden administration as the nation enters a new chapter of its history.
~Conall Butchart `22
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