The 2020 Presidential Election: A Vote for the Future of America

Isabel Smith, Copy Editor

On Nov. 3, Election Day, it was already evident that, like copious other aspects of 2020, this would be no ordinary occurrence. It took a full four days to count and verify all the ballots received. Only on the morning of Nov. 7 did the Associated Press declare Joe Biden the victor in Pennsylvania and call the race, solidifying Biden’s victory by a close margin of 306-232 Electoral College votes. Biden also ended up securing the nation’s popular vote by 4.4 percent.

Overall, the 2020 Presidential Election was a nerve-wracking experience for many. Senior Grace Newell stated that she experienced “extreme stress and anxiety” leading up to the election and echoed the thoughts of many Americans that “we’re in a turbulent environment right now. This election is extremely crucial and there’s a lot more gravity and there’s a lot more at stake regarding how our country is right now.” However, now, it is easier to look back on the numbers with some clarity. Some of the toss-up states this election were Florida, Texas, Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, and North Carolina with races in Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Wisconsin being tighter than originally predicted. There was a humorous time during election night when social media was a storm of people screaming about the races in Florida and Texas, two of the most populous states in the country with a hefty number of Electoral College votes. Later, throughout the week, the focus would turn to Pennsylvania, Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona, and Nevada as the states struggled under their hastily assembled mail-in vote systems, lawsuits citing unfair treatment of poll-watchers, and other concerns.

Even amongst IHS’ student body, where a majority of the population cannot vote, the tension around the election was felt rather strongly. Senior Arushi Chandrasekharan said, “The days before the election might’ve been the most stressed out I’ve been outside of school. What scared me most was how split the votes ended up being even after all the events of the last four years—especially this past year. Not to mention how basic human rights became a political debate when it never has and never should be.”

In the end, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia, one of Nebraska’s electoral votes, and Pennsylvania flipped Democrat. Many people attribute a portion of these flips to increased voter turnout and the dedication of young voters and minority voters to cast their ballots. The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) discovered that “youth turnout was much higher in the 2020 election than in 2016. Our calculations, based on votes counted as of November 9, suggest that 50%-52% of voting-eligible young people, ages 18-29, cast a ballot in the 2020 presidential election. We had previously estimated that youth voter turnout in 2016 was 42-44%.” 

In Georgia, some attributed the state’s flip to a staggering turnout from young Black voters. CIRCLE calculated that “young Black voters in [Georgia] chose Biden over Trump, 90% to 8%.” In addition, in Arizona, the dedication of members of the Navajo Nation might have been key to securing Biden’s victory in the state. According to Vox, “in Arizona… Biden won by a margin of fewer than 12,000 votes… Indigenous people make up nearly 6 percent of the state’s population, with eligible voters in the Navajo Nation reaching roughly 67,000 — and 60 to 90 percent of those Navajo Nation voters went for Biden, according to precinct-level data, helping push him ahead as the winner.” The Washington Post also highlighted the story of “Ride to the Polls,” an initiative that hoped to increase young Native American voter turnout by leading groups of young voters miles on horseback to reach polling stations.

To some, this presidential election might have been routine, but to others, their basic rights, security, and very existence in this country hinged on the outcome. However, when it came to the lives of IHS students, there were a few conflicting opinions regarding the significance of this election. Chandrasekharan stated, “I absolutely believe the results of this election were vital to my life and the lives of many, and it mattered way more than it should have. I, as well as many others, felt that if the election this year went in a different direction, we wouldn’t feel safe anymore. It’s kind of messed up when an election can determine the fate of the lives of half the population. I was worried the most about institutional discrimination and rights and opportunities being taken away from me because of my race, my non-straightness, and/or my political views.” On the other hand, sophomore Alex Kernish took a more casual view of the election, saying, “I honestly wasn’t too worried. I didn’t believe it would affect my personal life or change the way I was living my day to day life. So I wasn’t stressed out or not getting sleep over it. I just thought, whatever happens, happens.” Meanwhile, junior Spencer Moreno directed his concerns to the people most severely impacted by the actions of the administration, stating, “Since I’m sixteen-years-old, whether it’s something like social justice or taxes, I’m pretty unaffected personally by the results of the election. I care more about what’s happening to the majority of people, though, who are affected by the choices the president and the administration make.”

While this election was historical and unprecedented for numerous reasons, it was also filled with uncertainty, confusion, and a multitude of concerns brought up by both the public and the campaigns involved. One of the largest worries for this election was the new voting systems employed as the coronavirus pandemic forced many states to set up mail-in vote channels that were previously non-existent. Many voters and onlookers had concerns about the accuracy and security of voting by mail and the eligibility of these votes, and small rallies were seen outside polling stations across the country on election night and throughout the week, demanding transparency and exercising their right as poll-watchers.

Election night also saw much larger, substantial protests in major cities across the country. From Washington D.C. to Raleigh, North Carolina, Los Angeles to Seattle, ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, anti-Trump protestors, and protests organized by the Protect the Results coalition blended together to proclaim their dissatisfaction with the current condition of the country and make it abundantly clear that the results of this election will be upheld by the American people.

Then, further into the week, the Trump campaign began to file lawsuits against key battleground states. Lawsuits were filed in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada questioning extended deadlines for counting ballots, the rights of poll observers, claims of lack of transparency, and the authenticity of machine verification. According to NPR, a majority of these lawsuits have been overturned while few remain ongoing and are unlikely to alter the overall outcome of the election.

Now that the election has concluded, IHS students expressed some of the policy changes and reforms they were looking forward to in the next administration as well as some of the concerns they hoped to be addressed. Moreno pointed to environmental awareness, saying, “Our current president has done things like pull out of the Paris Accord and has been generally dispassionate about environmental protection. I know that Biden has stated the opposite where he’s very in favor of clean energy and such. So I’m personally looking forward to the rebuilding of America’s image as a bright country, in a way, and that’s just one small piece of everything.” Chandrasekharan admitted to personally hoping for the new administration to address “racism and the rise of racial supremacy” as well as LGBTQ+ rights. Kernish cited concerns regarding bipartisanship, extremism, and the substantial political divide occurring within the country. In contrast, Newell voiced what appears to be the general hope of Americans everywhere: “I’m hoping for a period of progressive changes, a new mentality, trying to repair divisions, and trying to get a system set up where we can eventually achieve the changes that many are hoping for.”

No matter the chaos that has surrounded this election cycle, the results have been solidified. Now, residents across the country can only declare their hopes for the next administration and the changes the next presidency is sure to bring.