By Jess Perkins
The 2020 presidential election was a wild one, to say the least. The election saw three times the voter turnout of the 2016 election, with approximately 161 million American votes.
The 2020 election was an important one for many, particularly first-time voters like freshman computer science major Sarah Kean. She voted early in person, but she described the experience as “a lot simpler than I thought.”
She, like many others, did not like the choices of presidential candidates that were on the ballot. Kean was also disappointed that others didn’t look into the third-party options for the presidency.
“It was either Trump or Biden… and that’s a thing every year,” she said.
This is the first election Kean paid attention to because it was the first she could vote in.
“You have to exercise your right to vote,” Kean said. She reminds her peers to vote in the primaries because many seem to forget about them.
Due to COVID-19, poll worker demographics looked different for the 2020 election. Typically, the majority of poll workers are elderly, but not many participated this year because of their increased likelihood of getting sick.
It was up to younger people to work the polls this election, which includes college students like Grace Ehlert, a senior communication arts major.
Ehlert was a poll worker for the first time at Stow in Summit County on Election Day.
“I had seen the process from the voter standpoint, but not from the worker standpoint before,” she said. She explains that her overall experience as a poll worker was positive, and she enjoyed the work.
A little over one thousand voters came to her location on Election Day and stretched the line out the door. Ehlert’s polling location used electronic check-in and paper ballots and took COVID-19 precautions like social-distance markers and separated booths.
The 2020 election saw the biggest voter turnout in 100 years. Naturally, the department of history, philosophy, and social sciences were excited and watched the election closely, especially Dr. David Beer, associate professor of political science, and Dr. Scott Waalkes, professor of international politics.
Although it took longer because of the increased mail-in ballots and voter turnout, Beer and Waalkes admit that the election was fairly straightforward and normal. Waalkes mentioned that it is normal for ballots not to be counted immediately and for tallies to be disputed, and Beer said that the election was unprecedented because of a pandemic and recession.
There is a very good chance that some states were still counting over a week after Election Day, but it didn’t make a difference in the outcome of the election. Elections are rarely finished the night they’re held; Americans just stop paying attention. With how intense 2020 and its candidates were, that didn’t happen.
Biden may have claimed the win, but there are multiple pieces for the election to be definitive. There are fifty individual state elections that will certify their results and transmit them to Congress and the Electoral College. The Electoral College will meet Dec. 14, 2020 to make the official call on who will become president.
Waalkes also talks about the “absentee ballot wrinkle”: in the months leading up to the election, there was concern about mail-in votes due to popular belief that the U.S. Postal Service was insufficiently funded. Despite these concerns and mistrust in mail-in ballot security, many people, a majority city residents and left-leaning voters, chose to go this route.
Due to the pandemic millions voted by mail, but there was a fear that the Board of Elections locations would be overwhelmed because so many others voted early in person. For example, Ohio had an exceptionally high turnout rate for early voting in person.
“[This] was actually good on a public health standpoint [because] of the decreased density of crowds,” Waalkes said.
The higher turnout is because of how many people are paying attention now, especially with so many out of work or other affected by the pandemic.
“It’s really hard to think of ways that COVID-19 didn’t affect the election,” Dr. Beer said. He thinks the virus has affected how many people voted this year.
Dr. Waalkes also mentions that the Black Lives Matter movement has played a part in election results. He states that an exit poll saw that for nine out of ten voters, Black Lives Matter played a part in their decision. Both political parties have their arguments, but the protests and social issues, along with security, have affected people.
Beer thinks that voters will largely go back to in-person voting in future elections instead of a huge switch to mail-in voting. Generally, the concerns about voter security are unfounded, he believes.
“It’s contagious and habit-forming,” Beer said of voting. He said that new voters should get in the habit of voting early on in their lives, so they will be more likely to vote in the future.