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March 4, 2021
PHOTO CREDITS: DOUG MILLS/NEW YORK TIMES
As millions of Americans cast their votes on Election Day, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden have only hours left to make their closing arguments to voters in a contest both parties are calling the most important and most contentious of our lifetimes.
With more than 99 million Americans having already cast their ballots – an early voting record – time is running out for Trump and Biden to sway uncommitted voters. President Trump held five rallies in four states Tuesday: North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Biden took to Ohio and Pennsylvania, closing out the day at a drive-in rally with Lady Gaga in Pittsburgh. His running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, also campaigned in Pennsylvania and finished her day at a drive-in rally with John Legend in Philadelphia. Their ticket’s top surrogate, former President Barack Obama, campaigned in Georgia and Florida. Vice President Mike Pence also has a pair of rallies in Pennsylvania.
If elected, Biden will be the oldest ever US president to take office. If Donald Trump is re-elected, he will be the oldest ever president to begin a second term in office. Current polls have Joe Biden on course to win Tuesday’s election, although President Trump is adamant he will pull off another victory like he did in 2016.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger held a news conference Monday morning from Park Tavern at Piedmont Park in Atlanta — a polling location that had over 16,000 voters assigned to it during the June primary and some of the longest lines in the county. Amid lingering accusations of voter suppression in the state, Raffensperger projected confidence in how the fall election has gone so far but also said there will be “challenges” on Tuesday. “There’s never been a perfect election. This one has gone very well so far. Tomorrow we’ll have challenges. The job of the counties, the poll managers, the poll workers will be to address those issues quickly. The state stands ready to help, where we can,” he said.
Raffensperger said his office has secured nearly 2,000 field service technicians to address issues that may arise at the 2,400 polling precincts statewide. Providing an update on early voting, Raffensperger said a record 55% of active registered voters have already voted in Georgia and that roughly 1.4 million “would have normally been Election Day voters.”
Gabriel Sterling, the statewide voting system implementation manager in Raffensperger’s office, echoed Raffensperger in saying that results in closer races will likely come on Wednesday and added they are expecting legal challenges following the election. “We anticipate that in any situation where we have a close election like this in what is now viewed as a swing state, there’s going to be challenges. There’ll be challenges from Republicans. There’ll be challenges from Democrats, and we expect them all to be going into court more than likely,” Sterling said.
Though election nights are typically characterized by countdown clocks for poll closings, giant touch screens loaded with voting data, and broadcasters anxiously waiting for results, election 2020 may look much different.
The overarching concern, says Rogers Smith, a professor of political science in the School of Arts & Sciences, is what might happen, rhetorically, in the gap between election night and the period where the election is not yet definitively declared. “One [concern] is that some states permit votes to come in after the election as long as they’re postmarked by the date of the election, so there are several states that don’t expect vote totals until Wednesday or Friday until after the election,” Smith says. “There’s also the possibility of many more lawsuits—over 300 have already been filed challenging election procedures around the country—and I think the odds of further litigation by Democrats or Republicans is very high. That may mean the election results are disputed, so that we won’t have a clear result until those disputes are resolved.”
Smith adds that his concern is not the reporting of results, but what political actors do with them. Especially, looking back to Election Night 2000, if there is confusion between networks over who won a particular state that is critical to the election. “We have no doubt [network analysts] will do a superb job; our concern is the response of both political actors and their supporters, and one thing 2000 does indicate, and subsequent elections indicate, is that different networks may make different calls at different times,” Smith says. “Some states may get called sooner than the other, and those may be disputed.”
Yphtach Lelkes, an assistant professor at the Annenberg School for Communication with a secondary appointment in the Department of Political Science, points to market-based media as the cause of this need-to-know election culture. “CNN, Fox News, and other cable news outlets have mastered the art of creating a cinematic experience on Election Night, replete with suspense and holograms. Putting scores up on a board, elections needles, and other tools feel more like a game show or ‘Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve’ than a somber democratic event,” Lelkes says. “I blame market-based models of news, where journalists are incentivized to get as many eyeballs as possible in order to drive up advertising revenue,” (Penn Today).
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany in a Fox News interview, appearing as Trump’s “campaign adviser,” confirmed he plans to be at the White House on election night. “We’ll be there at the White House in D.C.,” McEnany said. The Trump campaign had reportedly planned a traditional campaign party at his hotel, also off Pennsylvania Avenue, in Washington. But the president told reporters last week that he was considering other options including staying at the White House or spending time between the two. The Democratic ticket, meanwhile, is slated to be in Wilmington, Delaware, on election night (ABC News).
POLITICS EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE