The 2020 U.S. presidential race remains undecided as of Nov. 5 as races in swing states including Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Nevada and Georgia remain too close to call.
Trevor Mannion, adjunct professor of political science, said this election was different from others. For example, Mannion said third party vote percentages decreased compared to the 2016 election, indicating increasing polarization of the two major parties.
In addition, because of the large number of mail-in ballots cast, results were not finalized on Election Day as usual. Mannion said initial results on Election Day displayed different results than those in following days because Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden encouraged mail-in voting while President Donald J. Trump promoted in-person voting.
“Anyone who was watching the election results saw Trump had the East Coast, including Michigan and Wisconsin, and even North Carolina and Georgia by a long shot,” Mannion said. “Once they started counting the mail-in votes, a blue tidal wave came over, and it was closer than we thought.”
More than 100 million people voted early this year, according to the U.S. Elections Project website. This number is over two-thirds of the total votes cast during the 2016 presidential election, according to Pew Research Center.
“I think young voters and a higher voter turnout are affecting the results, but for the better because so many want change,” said Michelle Mejia, freshman pre-radiologic sciences student and voter in the 2020 election.
Mannion said higher voter turnout usually favors the Democrats statistically.
“If you are looking at the voter eligible population (VEP), this is the highest voter turnout I think we have seen since 1900,” Mannion said. “You are seeing somewhere around 65-67%. That is a huge increase from 2016, where you saw a VEP of about 59%.”
Jordan Hill, senior political science major, believes larger voter turnout resulted because of the rise of political issues including COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement.
“No matter what side we are on, it is great to see that a lot of people invested time to mail in a ballot or actually go to the ballot office,” Hill said. “It is great to see this type of civic engagement in this time in history, and I hope in future years we can keep this up.”
Mannion also said that the different campaign approaches each candidate took most likely influenced votes. While Trump favored reopening and rallies with looser restrictions, Biden focused on small and fewer rallies with strict restrictions.
Since this election contained many unusual elements, Mannion said future elections might look different.
“When people think back to this election, we are going to look at mail-in votes, how they changed it, how we perceive the voting process and how we project votes,” Mannion said.
However, controversy has arisen about the possibility of voter fraud when counting ballots after Election Day. Given the closeness of the race, Mannion said the results will likely be challenged in the Supreme Court.
“There are questions about the validity of the election,” Mannion said. “The one thing we really need to worry about is whether the institutions of America can bear the weight of an election of this magnitude.”
Regarding the future of American politics, Mannion said voters will need to consider parties’ stances as they change.
“We need to reevaluate ourselves in terms of this election about who we are trying to be and who we want to be,” Mannion said.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.