The 2020 election feels unfinished

Early on Saturday morning, AP News and other media outlets announced that Joe Biden hit 270 electoral votes and officially became the president-elect of the U.S. From that moment, many New York City residents began to cheer inside of their homes, workplaces or on the streets in approval of Biden. Parades of citizens formed around various streets of the country in response to the announcement – some in favor of the decision, and some calling for a vote recount.

As COVID-19 led to an influx of mail-in ballots, U.S. residents patiently waited for four days after Election Day ended to hear who the next president would be, ultimately heightening emotions while stuck in election limbo and filling individuals with election stress. Many were hyper-focused on the electoral vote count and its inner workings until Biden became the president-elect. Typically, after an election is called the previous president’s deliberate political action comes to an end, but in the 2020 election, this is not the case.

On Saturday morning, Trump tweeted: “I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT” completely contradicting the news that Biden has reached 290 electoral votes so far. He claimed there have been various instances of voter fraud during the election on his personal Twitter account and according to an AP News report by Jill Colvin, Zeke Miller and Jonathan Lemire Trump is “is not expected to ever formally concede” from office. 

So, while Biden supporters thrive in a new era of politics and presidency, Trump supporters do not believe the race is over. This current polarization of the country leaves room to better understand the facts grounded within the Constitution and federal and state governments. 

As some dismiss Trump’s attempts to find proof of voter fraud, he legally has the right to do so. Dr. Adam Kunz who teaches law-related issues at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) said every state has until Dec. 8 to certify their election results. 

From now until that date, states can recount votes, hold court hearings or challenge voting in any way. “Trump doesn’t have to concede,” Kunz said. “Presidents and candidates historically do concede” like Hilary Clinton did in the 2016 presidential election, but “technically, all that matters is what the electoral college decides.” 

The electoral college has existed since the beginning of America’s establishment. Kunz said the electoral college system is due for an update, as it is an “archaic, strange system that no other nation in the world followed.” Having this system allows states to pick their own methods for counting electoral votes, adding to the long list of presidential election policies. 

“What we see right now is a really, really outdated system that is in desperate need of an update, and there’s many ways to do it, but nobody’s bothered to do it yet,” Kunz said. 

The Interim Dean of CSUMB’s College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Andrew Drummond advised students to trust in this political process although it may seem complicated. “[The electoral college’s] clearest and most significant drawback is that the popular vote leader in a presidential election is not guaranteed to be the electoral vote leader,” which creates discrepancies in who people want to be president versus who actually receives the power to be.

“Again, while there are clear drawbacks to having such a varied system across the country, some would argue that this variation makes widespread voter fraud or manipulation of the vote much less likely,” Drummond said.

“For democracy to work, people must have faith and confidence in the process or else the process will produce results that undermine the public trust down the road, as fewer and fewer people see value in participating inside of what they may see as a corrupt structure,” Drummond said. “So it is really incumbent upon President Trump and his legal team at this point to support these claims with evidence and then the courts will decide whether the claims have merit or not and then we will get that important closure.”

Over the next few weeks the 2021 office chair that symbolically remains empty is still currently occupied. “Candidates can use that time to wind-up their voters,” Kunz said.

Some right-wing supporters do appear to be amped-up about Trump’s lack of electoral votes and have voiced this via social media. In a report from the LA Times by Richard Winton, it was discovered that a man threatened to commit a mass shooting if Biden wins the election. Some are concerned there is a possibility these heightened emotions could lead to retaliation.

Although challenging the electoral process has not been uncommon throughout history, it can lead to lots of collective stress, which may lead to violent acts. 

“I am really, really disturbed and so worried by calls for political violence and intimidation,” Drummond said. “I am hopeful that this will not be part of what we experience in a year that has been filled with so much pain already.”

“It’s always a possibility that there will be some kind of protest or violent insurrection that takes place and we’re already seeing some of that,” Kunz said. “There’s armed protesters standing outside of the county courthouses in Arizona … and they’re chanting for the vote count to stop.” Although it is important to note that stopping vote counting would not help Trump excel into a second term. 

Because COVID-19 has made 2020 an upsetting year as it is and people from unprivileged communities have been rising up through protesting, the country has developed a hodge podge of reasons for citizen outcry. Kunz said there is a great divide in who supports those communities and who doesn’t. “[Election stress] adds more fuel to those fires,” he said. 

Dr. Roopa Bala Singh is an assistant professor of Legal Studies and Civic Engagement at CSUMB believes this uniquely intense political climate created a need for relaxation. 

“This year’s election brought up high emotions for many, it is my hope that people intentionally devote time now to unwinding, resting, and refueling – particularly those who are already, always targeted by heightened state surveillance, economic oppression, and those who are impacted by environmental displacements and illness,” Singh said.

Despite the hectic nature of this election, voters can take satisfaction in knowing that after they sent in their ballot, their civic duties were completed. “You have done your job (by voting) … in many ways you can take a breath,” Kunz said. 

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