Wishing, wondering, waiting

Slow election results leave Americans on the edge of their seats

COURTESY OF THE COLLEGE OF WILLIAM & MARY. CREATIVE COMMONS

Julian E.J. Sorapuru

Staff Writer

Disclaimer: This story was written and edited before the Associated Press called the presidential race for Joe Biden on Saturday Nov. 7.

As of Friday morning, the country still waits with bated breath for the results of a monumental U.S. presidential election. It has been three days since Election Day, but in a race this close, it’s hard to have a definitive answer yet. At the time of writing, Nevada, Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania have yet to be called for either candidate according to the Associated Press. 

“If you went to bed [Tuesday] night, as a Trump supporter, you probably felt nervous, but confident. And if you were a Biden supporter, you were probably nervous and depressed,” said James Taylor, a USF politics professor. “And you woke up [Wednesday] morning, and you’re like, ‘Wait a minute, we’re not dead yet. We’re still alive.’ And then you look at the field and you realize everything left is blue.” Indeed, Biden established clear leads in the Great Lakes states on Wednesday morning, and vote counts eventually awarded him Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Despite Biden’s lead in the electoral college count, USF politics professor Stephen Zunes expressed unease. “I’m concerned about a number of things: one, that [the election] was even close. I think it’s a poor reflection on the state of America today,” he said. Zunes is also concerned that Trump will use legal loopholes to essentially “steal” this election, even if Biden is fairly elected. If this happens, Zunes, whose scholarship focuses on strategic nonviolent action, said, “People will have to seriously think about whether we should do what the people of the Philippines and Serbia and Ukraine and Gambia did when incumbent regimes tried to steal elections, and that is to engage in massive nonviolent civil resistance to demand that the results be recognized and that the real winner become president.”

Malik Joseph, 20, an Ohio voter attending DePaul University in Chicago, said he will be taking part in civil unrest if Trump wins reelection. However, Joseph admitted, “I think it’s gonna be tough, especially as a Black man. I don’t really like putting myself on the front lines just because I know how likely it is for me to end up in a very bad situation, as opposed to one of my white roommates or someone else that is for the same cause.”

In spite of provocations of intimidation from Trump, who called on the white nationalist organization the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” during the first presidential debate, Americans are on pace to set record voter turnout numbers. Taylor suggested that Biden has received the most votes of any presidential candidate ever (over 70 million and counting) because of increased engagement from both African American and young voters. “Black people have won this election for Joe Biden. That’s the bottom line,” Taylor proclaimed. “Young people in this country have finally awakened. For the past 50 years, being young didn’t mean anything in politics.” 

According to the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), a non-partisan research center on youth engagement, youth (ages 18-29) turnout is currently at 49%-51%, with the possibility of rising to 53%-56% by the time all votes are counted. For comparison, youth turnout in the 2016 election was 42%-44%. Youth who voted in this election favored Biden by nearly double.

Mei Lin, 20, a third year international studies major at USF, not only voted, but was a field organizer for the California Democratic Party. “Politics have always been personal for me, but I feel like being involved in a campaign as a field organizer has granted me the opportunity to take even more responsibility on the fight towards justice and equity,” she said via text message. “Every loss feels so personal and I am definitely hurt, but it also invigorates me to continuing being involved in this work and to continue organizing regardless of the results of this election.”

Kaylah Hernandez, a sophomore at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, votes in a swing state, but said she doesn’t agree with how the election is decided. “The popular vote should have a bigger part in who gets to be president. And if a candidate loses the popular vote, then they shouldn’t be president because, obviously, that’s not what American citizens want.” Although Hernandez, 19, cast her absentee ballot in Pennsylvania on time, she said she is concerned because her ballot status is unclear and she doesn’t know if her vote will be counted.

Twice already this century, in 2000 and 2016, the Electoral College has delivered the presidency to the candidate with fewer popular votes. Taylor noted growing public frustration with an electoral system that was originally designed to protect the interests of less populated states from the power of more populated states. This has created a situation that some political pundits call a “tyranny of the minority.”

“More voting, more democracy, is bound to make greater demands for electoral reforms. And the end game for democrats, for the small d, not the party, but people who are committed to democracy, is the erasure of this obsolete racist institution or structure called the Electoral College,” said Taylor.

New Orleans resident Leaughan Salaam, 27, feels that the United States’s problems extend beyond just the Electoral College, so much so that she has begun the process of emigrating to Canada. Salaam said that one night, about six months ago, she was “just tired,” feeling so stressed by her job as an IT specialist at a hospital and news coverage of the pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests that she made a “move to Toronto notebook” at 2 a.m. Despite her plans to leave the United States, Salaam still voted in the presidential election. “Just because I’m leaving doesn’t mean that other people are, and I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t at least try to do something that would make this country better,” she said. “There are a lot of people who have not given up, who will continue to live here, who don’t have the option to move. That would not be right of me to just say, ‘Well, I’m leaving, so forget y’all.’

Salaam completed her permanent residency application and will next take the Canadian government’s mandatory English test in January. After which, Salaam said her goal is to be out of the U.S. by September 2021 at the latest. She later added, “[Biden] winning would be a huge victory because we wouldn’t have a literal fascist in charge, but I don’t think it’s going to solve the problems we have in this country.”

Zunes, like everyone else interviewed for this story, is waiting for the final counts. “It’s not over,” he said. “People need to be engaged. And in these cases where people have had to take to the streets, when people have had to engage in massive non-cooperation to defend democracy, it’s been students and youth who have often taken the lead. I hope that USF students will recognize that and act accordingly.”

For a list of USF post-election resources, click here. You can also see a list of USFVotes’ resources here.

Mardy Harding contributed to the reporting of this story.

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