A deep dive into the divided 2020 presidential election


Camille Pfister , Managing Editor

The 2020 election was one of the most divided elections in American history. Over 160 million Americans cast ballots, and Joe Biden got 81 million votes, more than any candidate in U.S. history, and his opponent, current President Donald Trump got 74 million, earning the second amount of votes in history. 


Politicians prepared the American people that the likelihood a winner would be declared Tuesday was very low, due to the huge increase in mail in ballots caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Just as they predicted, no winner was declared Tuesday. Despite this, in a speech made from the White House, President Trump put forth conspiracy theories about fraud in the election and falsely declared himself the winner. Many politicians, including Republicans, were quick to call out the President, and state that the election would continue until all votes are counted. 


During the waiting period between election day and the day a winner was finally declared, tensions ran high. Protesters on both sides gathered in Pennsylvania, a major battleground state. Following election day, Biden was ahead and as mail in ballots began to be counted, the margin only increased.


On Saturday, November 7, 2020, Biden surpassed the 270 marker by winning Pennsylvania, electing him President of the United States. 


During the election period, news outlets differed in the times they called states for a candidate. For example, early in the week, the Associated Press called Arizona for Biden, while other major news networks, like the New York Times and CNN, decided to hold off until Friday, November 13. 


On November 7, when all major networks called Pennsylvania for Biden, and later Nevada, there was still debate on just how many electoral votes he had. The Associated Press, due to counting Arizona, had the number at 290, while other networks, without Arizona, had it at 279. 


This election is historic in many ways. For one, it had the highest vote count of any previous election. It also marks the first election since the election of 1960, that the person who won Ohio (Trump) did not win the electoral college. Kamala Harris will become the United States’s first female Vice President, as well as the first African American and Asian American Vice President. 


Trump won Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, Wyoming, and 3 electoral votes from Nebraska by large margins. 


Biden won California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, D.C, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and 3 electoral votes from Maine by large margins. 


In battleground states, both candidates earned about the same number of states. Trump came away with Florida, Iowa, Montana, Ohio, Texas, North Carolina, 1 electoral vote from Maine, and 1 more electoral vote from Nebraska. Biden ended up with Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia, and 1 electoral vote from Nebraska. 


Biden, however, managed to flip 6 of the states he won. Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia, and the final electoral vote in Nebraska, all went to Trump in 2016. Many former Republican strongholds were moved into battleground territory. Texas, for example, was decided by 647,445 votes. In 2016, it was decided by 813,774 votes. That’s a 166,329 vote difference. 


On Saturday morning, when the Biden victory was announced, celebrations were held all over the country. In New York City, Biden supporters banged pots and pans together, honked horns, and cheered. People even gathered on the streets, in Central Park, and in Time Square to dance and pop champagne. The same occurred in California, D.C., and Philadelphia. In other states, smaller celebrations were held, with people going down to the park to celebrate, wave flags, and hear the honks of support from passing cars. 


In Austin, a democratic hub in the Republican state of Texas, a mix of Biden and Trump supporters gathered at the Capital. Biden supporters sang and celebrated, while Trump supporters protested. Along with the collection of people, hundreds of cars drove by, honking their horns in support of either candidate. The clash of supporters remained peaceful by all accounts. 


After NBC called the race for Biden, President Trump refused to concede, saying that the race is ‘far from over.’ He told the press that his campaign will be fighting in court and issuing recounts. While some Republicans and members of the President’s inner circle have reportedly told the President to admit defeat, many of his supporters and other politicians, including Mitch McConnell, support his decision to file legal action against the election results. 


On November 15, Trump supporters gathered for a Million MAGA March in D.C. The march brought people from all over the country to protest and express their distrust in the election process. This march, and the second one planned in early December, show how divided the country still is. 


Trump supporters have also been spreading the baseless claims that the election was stolen from Trump, citing videos and tweets across social media. One video, that was even retweeted by Trump’s son Eric, shows someone burning ballots that are for Trump. The video, from Virgina, was fact checked by election officials in the state, who say that the ballots are sample ballots, they are not real. Another rumor, that in Michigan on election night, 138,000 votes came in for Biden. This rumor was the result of a clerical error from Decision Desk HQ, which corrected the error and removed the votes. 


A big claim from Trump supporters is that Trump had an early lead and in the following days that lead decreased. This is true, and the reasoning is mail in ballots. Republicans, by an overwhelming majority, voted early, or on election day, and in person. Many Democrats, on the other hand, voted by mail. In the majority of states, early voting and election day ballots got counted first. This created what political scientists call a “Red Mirage.” It looks like the Republicans are winning, until the blue votes start rolling in. Trump and his supporters claim that these ballots are “illegal” and that if they arrive after election day, they should not be counted. However, according to the Constitution, states have the right to decide election rules. Many states have a law that should a ballot be postmarked by November 3rd, they can be received and counted up to a few days after the election. The amount of days varies from state to state. 


Political scientists are not worried about Trump getting back the election. In Pennsylvania, which won Biden the election, the main lawsuit against the state is the ballots received in the three days following the election. Prior to the pandemic, Pennsylvania was not allowed to count any mail in ballots received after election day. However, due to the increased number of mail ballots, the state court ruled that any ballots received within a 3 day period, postmarked on or prior to election day, can be counted. The Trump Administration immediately challenged that ruling and it is pending in the Supreme Court. Due to the decision being pending, Pennsylvania was not allowed to count any of the ballots received after election day. This means that Biden won with the ballots, both mail and in person, received on election day. In the other states, the lawsuits filed are about a small number of ballots that would not change the outcome of the winner of that state. 


What political scientists do raise concern about is the future following this election. In a now majority conservative Supreme Court (6-3), there is concern about future election rulings being brought their way. In Article 1, Section 4 of the Constitution, there is a line about how each state legislature should determine the “times, places, and manner of holding elections.” For the history of our nation, the word “legislature” has always been interpreted as whatever the lawmaking process is in that state. This includes the state legislature, the state supreme court, the state constitution, and the governor’s right to veto. However, at least 4 of the conservative members of the Supreme Court view it instead as just the state legislature, which Republicans hold in a majority of states. In future elections, these state legislatures could draft election laws that increase gerrymandering, voter ID laws, and poll closures. All of which disproportionately impact Democrats, lower income voters, and voters of color.  


On the Saturday evening, President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris addressed the nation from Biden’s senate state of Delaware. Harris began the night by paying a tribute to the late civil-rights activist John Lewis and the women that came before her. She thanked Biden for choosing her to be his running mate and ended her speech by speaking to the little girls in the nation. 


“While I may be the first woman in this office,” Harris said.. “I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”


Biden used the first few minutes of his speech to thank his family, his campaign members, Harris, and the American people for electing him. Biden then spent the majority of his speech talking about being a president for all Americans, even the ones who didn’t vote for him, and unifying the country. He mentioned his plan for battling the coronavirus pandemic, and stated that he would always have the people’s back. 


“To make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy. We are not enemies. We are Americans,” Biden said. “The Bible tells us that to everything there is a season — a time to build, a time to reap, a time to sow. And a time to heal. This is the time to heal in America.”


On Monday November 14, 2020, the electoral college voted and affirmed the election results– Joe Biden is the official president-elect of the United States. The confirmed electoral college votes are 306-232.


Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn into office on January 20, 2021, as the 46th president and vice president of the United States of America.