The most contentious election cycle in modern history is drawing to a stunning conclusion, after a nearly week-long vote counting marathon. As voters watching anxiously, the hours ticked by and ballot counts trickled in. Now, finally, former Vice President Joe Biden is on the cusp of being declared the winner as he approaches a possible 306 electoral votes.
Why Did it Take So Long?
The coronavirus pandemic changed the landscape of voting in 2020. More people voted by mail than ever before. Every state has different laws and rules as to how and when mail-in votes are counted. For instance, in states like Ohio and Florida, mail-in votes were tabulated as they arrived. So by Election Day, a good portion of votes were already counted or at least processed, and the bulk of ballot tabulation was left to day-of voting.
However, in states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, state regulations don’t allow them to touch mail-in votes until Election Day. With record numbers of mail-in voters in Nevada, Arizona, and Georgia, the speed of ballot counting has been slow. In Pennsylvania, the speed of vote counting has been complicated by the fact that Pennsylvania is new to mail-in voting, offering it for the first time this year.
In every state, poll workers have been working methodically and carefully to make sure the process is indisputable, above-board, transparent, and honest.
How Did Biden Win?
As a candidate, Biden promised to bring back the so-called Rust Belt states. In 2016, President Donald J Trump wrested Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania away from the Democrats, which clinched his victory in the presidential race. Biden ran on the promise that he would be able to win back voters in those states disenfranchised by Trump’s handling of the coronavirus and lack of economic support as the pandemic sent the economy into near-freefall.
Biden did exactly what he promised he could do. As Election Day drew to a close and day-of votes were counted, the Rust Belt states remained Red, as in person voting favored Republicans. News pundits referred to this as the, “red mirage,” because it gave the illusion that the states were breaking for the Republicans, but in reality the vote counting had just begun. However, as the states methodically worked their way through mail-in votes over the following few days, the phenomenon known as the, “blue shift,” occurred. The blue shift was a result of those legally cast mail-in ballots that simply had yet to be counted. This was expected by political experts who warned voters that it would occur, weeks before Election Day.
What Went Wrong for Trump?
Actually, not a lot went wrong for Trump. He performed above expectations in every state he won. In Florida, Trump won by approximately 3%. Florida, usually a battleground state, looked nothing like one as Trump slowly pulled away from his opponent, buoyed by the fact that Latino voters in South Florida didn’t show up for Democrats in nearly the numbers they did in 2016 for Hillary Clinton.
In most traditionally red states, Trump won easily, and quickly. But in states like Arizona and Georgia, which have long been red strongholds, a shift in voter demographics spelled doom for Trump’s climb to victory. Arizona, adopted home of former Senator John McCain who died from cancer in 2018, served as a scolding for Trump. Trump often took aim at the maverick senator, who stood up against the president more often than his Republican colleagues. McCain famously gave an unexpected thumbs down vote and prevented a Republican attempt to repeal Obamacare. After McCain’s death, Trump continued to mock the senator, prompting his widow Cindy McCain to take up Biden’s mantle and campaign hard for him across the country. So far, it seems to have made a difference as Biden remains in the lead in the traditionally red stronghold. Win or lose Arizona, that the margins are so tight in the red state is a rebuke of the president’s behavior towards favorite son McCain.
In Georgia, former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has shifted the balance of power. Abrams worked tirelessly since the 2018 midterms to increase voter registration in Georgia, ultimately adding over 800,000 new voters to the rolls. This may have made all the difference as Biden flipped the state blue for the first time in 30 years.
But aside from those two upsets and Biden reclaiming the Rust Belt, Trump did historically well.
History Has Been Made
Biden made history by earning the most votes of any presidential candidate ever, nearly 74 million as of the writing of this article. But it should be noted that Trump also made history, racking in the second most votes ever, impressively approaching 70 million.
But perhaps more notably, as Kamala Harris nears victory with her running mate, she too has made history. Harris will be the first female vice president, and as a Black and Asian American, she’s breaking records across the board.
In Delaware, voters elected the first transgender state senator in Sarah McBride.
As the president increasingly feels the possibility of defeat, he is ramping up his rhetoric. Instead of allowing the process to play out, the president is flailing madly in an attempt to discredit the functions of democracy, and spreading egregious and dangerous lies. Trump has falsely claimed that the late trickle of votes is the result of Democrats cheating to, “steal,” the election. Although he provides no evidence, Trump is crying fraud. This is an argument he’s been preparing for months. Trump encouraged his supporters to vote in person, while discrediting mail-in voting. In Pennsylvania, voting officials tried to appeal to legislators to allow them to start counting mail-in ballots before Election Day to avoid exactly the scenario they find themselves in with a slow result, but the Pennsylvania Republican legislators denied them the attempt. As a result, Pennsylvania voting officials were forced into an impossible situation where their voting results couldn’t help but trickle in slowly, and Trump had already prepped the stage to call those trickle-in votes fraud.
Trump supporters, following the lead of the president, have arrived to protest in the states still tabulating votes. In some states, like Pennsylvania, they cry, “Stop the vote!” In Arizona, however, where the president is slowly closing the gap with his competitor, his protesters cry, “Count the vote!”
Trump has launched legal challenges against several states, but two of those have already been shot down as unfounded. And with a mixed message, the Trump campaign will be hard pressed to convince a judge that their concern is alleged fraud, if they only take exception to fraud if they think it works against them. Trump signaled Thursday his intent to continue the legal battle, still maintaining that he would be winning but for the late votes they’re counting.
Unfortunately for the president, counting votes that are legally cast is exactly how the process is supposed to work.
From now, the states will conclude their votes, a winner will be declared decisively, automatic recounts will occur, and the legal battles will ensue. For now, it looks as though we are facing the likelihood of President-Elect Biden.