Even for those of us who know that COVID-19 won’t disappear after the election, Nov. 3 seems like the day we have all been striving towards for a while now. We are looking for a sense of relief, a collective sigh taken by society as the election will finally come to a close. Gone will be the days of political campaign ads with the same gray filter, campaign signs in every yard and every celebrity that has ever existed telling you to vote while you are scrolling through TikTok. We will finally have peace and clarity. Except, we won’t.
It should be no surprise to anyone that this election will not operate the same as any prior, but Americans need to realize that this presidential election will not be decided Tuesday night. There is likely to be no declared winner for the highest office in the country for some time, and as with much in 2020, uncertainty and ugliness will follow.
There has been a record high in mail-in voting for the 2020 election with upwards of 93 million votes already cast, according to an NPR. And many experts predict historic numbers overall for voter turnout in this election. While this is great for democracy, it is not great for immediate results.
Many states have separate laws governing when and how they will count mail-in and absentee voting, meaning that there is no unilateral system in place. For example, Arizona, which is considered a battleground state in this election, has already begun counting mail-in votes because state law allows them to begin the count two weeks early. In contrast, Pennsylvania didn’t start counting until Monday, meaning their results likely won’t be in until the end of the week.
There is also always Florida, the state that’s not exactly known for normalcy and clear election results. If one were to put odds on which state bungles the count, Florida would be more favored than the Chiefs were against the Jets.
Perhaps the most likely thing to muddy the waters of the election results is the president himself. Trump has repeatedly avoided saying that he will concede the election to former Vice President Joe Biden if it is clear he will lose. He is the only president in history to not commit to a peaceful transfer of power — the most basic and vital principle of representative democracy — which is bad for all of us.
He has even gone so far as to claim that he will declare himself the winner election night if he is ahead of Biden. This declaration could come as millions of votes sit uncounted because of mail-in voting, which is likely to favor Biden according to polls. Essentially, Trump would be performing the equivalent of the Atlanta Falcons head coach declaring himself winner prior to the fourth quarter starting. He has since walked back these statements.
If it is announced that Biden has won the presidency after election night, then Trump will likely continue the “voter fraud” campaign. For those wondering, voter fraud in 2016 represented a whopping 0.000002% of votes cast. It sure seems like a real problem that needs to be constantly brought up by the president more than important issues like poverty and healthcare.
He will lament and lambaste the very foundations of the U.S. government via unsubstantiated claims because he can’t handle losing. There will be no concession speech and no congratulations. It will be political warfare and mudslinging.
It’s very possible that as Americans we will be caught in a monthslong stalemate between two candidates with no clear idea on who will lead us next or how they will do it. There is some good news for Nodaway County voters, however. Since there were few mail-in ballots requested, we will most likely have definitive results for county races. So while we may not know who the commander in chief will be, we will know who the sheriff will be.
While it may seem like the proverbial Friday morning shift of the years, something we just have to get through to make it to the weekend, it won’t be. On 2020’s election night, expect getting the results to be much like everything else this year: a mess. The collective sigh will most likely be a sigh of frustration.