Election 2020: Results and recounts from a historic election

The results of November 3, 2020, or rather the lack of results, dragged on for four days after election day. This was a difficult time, and anxieties were high while the country waited for battleground states to project their chosen winner. This presidential election felt especially close to home for millions of Americans, a high stakes race for a number of reasons. The waiting was put to an end on the morning of November 7, when Pennsylvania and Nevada determined that their electoral votes would be given to former Vice President Joe Biden, tipping him over the edge to the needed 270 electoral college votes. Every major media source had then called the election, and it was determined that Joseph R. Biden, Jr. would become the 46th president of the United States. 

Pennsylvania and Nevada, among a number of other key battleground states, were necessary for achieving victory for the president-elect. States typically go red for Republicans or blue for Democrats and typically stay consistent throughout election cycles. However, this is not always the case. Votes are still being counted as of November 9, but Georgia is leaning blue. Georgia tends to lean red among its fellow conservative states; however, that changed in this election cycle. Swing states can go either way, typically depending on who the candidate is and how often they campaigned in the state. Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Pennsylvania are a few examples of states that have gone both red and blue in recent elections. 

This was a historic election for a number of reasons. Happening during one of the worst global pandemics in history, it was clear that this election would inevitably look drastically different from previous ones. This did not stop Americans from voting, either via absentee ballot or in person. According to Bloomberg, at least 161 million people voted this year, the largest amount of votes ever to be cast in a presidential election. Vice-president elect Kamala Harris shattered a huge barrier herself by becoming the first woman, and the first woman of color, to hold the second-highest position in the country. This is a phenomenal achievement, creating an excellent example for women and girls across the country. 

But what about voters who didn’t support Biden, and what about President Trump himself? He has refused to concede to the results, continuing to support his previous claims that voter fraud would and did happen in the election. According to New York Times writers Maggie Haberman and Michael D. Shear, aides to the president have stated that he has no plans to deliver a traditional concession speech. In the wake of Saturday’s results and Biden giving an official acceptance speech, Trump has stated that Biden is falsely posing as the winner. Trump also released his plans regarding the results, declaring that “beginning Monday, our campaign will start prosecuting our case in court to ensure laws are fully upheld and the rightful winner is seated.” The president hopes to contest the results by a recount in numerous states and through legal action. However, it is very unlikely he will be able to change the results through either of these actions. Even if this were to happen, Biden is up significantly in the electoral college and in the popular vote, and therefore it may not make much of a difference. 

President Trump’s desire for a recount seems to stem from his belief that some states are counting ballots that were submitted illegally according to each specific states’ voting laws. Both Justin Reimer, Chief Counsel to the Republican party, and Senator Mitch McConnell have issued statements calling for ballot integrity that align with Trump’s perspective on the situation. In these statements, they assert that only legally submitted ballots should be counted, and that illegal ballots should not be counted. While this is not a controversial idea, there is no substantiated proof that any state is counting ballots illegally as of November 10. Even in Pennsylvania, which seems to be the source of much of President Trump’s frustration, ballots submitted after the voting deadline have been segregated from other ballots since the beginning of counting and have not been included in totals reported by various news outlets. 

The process for conducting a recount varies between the states. Several states allow requests for recounts or automatically begin the process if differences in votes between candidates fall within a certain margin. The Trump campaign has already requested recounts to be conducted in Wisconsin and Georgia. When the results from Wisconsin were called, Trump was behind roughly 20,000 votes; however, Biden’s margin of victory is around 0.6 percent, allowing for a recount since it falls within a one-point margin. Recount criteria are similar in Georgia, where legislation states that candidates can request a recount if the margin is within 0.5 percent and has to occur within two business days after the results are certified. There, Biden continues to lead by less than 10,000 votes, and state officials have declared that a recount will be happening regardless of President Trump’s wishes. 

The process of the electoral college does not stop after the election is called. Each state has until December 8 to resolve any issues and to certify their electoral votes. On December 14, each state’s governor certifies the electoral votes from their state, and the winning party’s electors are sent to contribute their votes to the overall total of 270. December 23 is the final day in which each individual state has a say in their electoral votes, and the overall electoral college’s certified vote is sent to the Senate. The last day in the process is January 6, when the House and Senate count the official electoral votes and declare the results.

As stated previously, if President Trump even had a chance of a successful recount in those key states, it would not put him close enough to surpassing Biden. His allies have given a mixed result of reactions, with some supporting his efforts to keep fighting and others stating that he needs to concede. Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey and one of Trump’s closest allies, affirmed his frustrations regarding the president’s refusal to concede the election. He stated, “This kind of thing, all it does is inflame without informing. And we cannot permit inflammation without information.” Democrats are feeling the same way and want to move ahead as Biden and Harris prepare for their inauguration in January. Democratic House Whip James Clyburn expressed his party’s desire for Republicans to encourage the president to concede. Clyburn asserted, “What matters to me is whether or not the Republican party will step up and help us preserve the integrity of this democracy.”

The Biden administration will have a number of daunting tasks to tackle. Healing the racial divide in the country, fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and creating a political environment of less divisiveness and polarization between the two major parties are some of the top priorities on the list. By supporting and placing faith in the democratic process, Democrats believe that unity in these steps will be a move in the right direction to heal a split nation.

Alli Mitchell ('22) is a Staff Writer for the Beyond section. She is majoring in Political Science and double minoring in Art History and Environmental Studies. She can usually be found with a cup of coffee in the library or at LJs. On-campus, she is a member of the Alpha Gamma Phi sorority, works in the Biology Department and at Cup and Chaucer, and is involved in the Phelps Scholars Program. In her free time, she enjoys reading, yoga, writing, hammocking, photography, and spending time with friends.

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