This article reflects analysis based on an extremely volatile election that was accurate at the time of publication, but could change when official election results become available. Check online for the most accurate and up-to-date information.
Though the 2020 presidential election election remains too close to call, Trump has continued to sow division and spread disinformation, as he took to Twitter in a now removed tweet alleging Democrats are trying to “steal the election.”
Trump prematurely stated that he is up “BIG,” as he still trails behind Biden by anywhere between 40 and 50 electoral votes — some outlets have declared Biden the winner of Arizona’s 11 electoral votes and Trump the winner of Maine’s second congressional district’s single vote — with many ballots still waiting to be counted. This tweet demonstrates the Trump administration’s lack of confidence in their position, and tries to discredit the many American ballots that are yet to be counted.
Republicans have been gearing up to challenge ballots for months, as Democrats are pushing to ensure every single vote is counted. Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic Party, stated that they are keeping careful track of all ballots that were being rejected in swing states, carefully attempting to reinstate them.
Early in the night we saw Biden grasping an early lead in Florida and Texas, two very dominant Republican states and Trump remained very quiet. As the night went on and votes rolled in from today’s polls, we saw Trump speaking out on Twitter, “WE ARE LOOKING REALLY GOOD ALL OVER THE COUNTRY.” This was not the case as New England and west-coast states, including Arizona and possibly Nevada, have primarily favored Biden thus far.
In his speech early Wednesday morning, Trump proceeded to claim victory — despite eight critical swing states at that time having yet to be called. In this premature declaration of victory, Trump wielded an extremely dangerous tactic that undermines the integrity of the already fragile election. Politico reported that Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said that “there’s just no basis to make that argument tonight” and that “it’s a bad strategic decision, it’s a bad political decision, and it’s not the kind of decision you would expect someone to make tonight who holds the position he holds.”
John Kasich, former Republican Ohio gov. said on CNN, “This is ridiculous.”
Besides, how could one claim premature victory in a so-called fraudulent election?
In his address, Trump spoke out to a crowded room of mostly un-masked individuals stating that he wants “all voting to stop.” This extremely anti-democratic statement would strip millions of Americans of their essential right to vote.
Vice President Mike Pence also came out to address the crowd, but did not make any premature statements of victory, careful to not mimic the same rhetoric offered by Trump.
In a tweet Wednesday morning, Trump said that his lead in some states has “magically” disappeared, again discrediting the power of citizens’ votes. If “magically” disappearing means making sure every American ballot is counted, then Trump is right. By insinuating that Democratic votes counted after his lead “magically” appeared, Trump again falsely suggests that these votes are somehow invalid. This tactic spreads more disinformation that absentee and mail-in votes are somehow invalid or the result of mysterious or fraudulent forces, despite the claim’s lack of factual basis.
In another tweet, Trump said that “they are finding Biden votes” in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan — language that makes it seem as if these votes appeared out of nowhere and do not come from valid ballots casted by real people. This statement wrongly places distrust in a public process conducted by officials who carefully follow election procedures.
“Every step of the election’s process is publicly observable. You can observe Election Day and the voters casting their ballot. You can observe the votes being tallied at night. The voting registration records are public information. The absentee data is public information,” Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe said in a press conference. “I am incredibly proud of the work done by Wisconsin’s election officials, and I feel 100 percent confident in the election that they conducted and that the laws that are established by elected lawmakers were followed in yesterday’s election.”
Nobody is “stealing the election.” By counting all votes, we are saving the election. Individuals are fighting hard for every single American ballot to be counted and every voice to be heard. Counting every vote is not counting for one particular party, it is counting for democracy.
While the election is still in question, despite record turnout, many of the expectations of large shifts towards Biden are not being seen in many toss up states. In places like Florida, Ohio and Texas, Biden was expected to win or be competitive. Despite Democrats’ best efforts to try to sway moderate votes, Trump was able to maintain control over those same states that he won in 2016.
Arizona has not been called by all networks yet, but a few have already declared Biden’s victory in that state, marking one of the few Biden pick-ups since 2016. The important question is whether Democrats’ messaging will hold in the rust-belt states that infamously won Trump the election in 2016.
Michigan and Pennsylvania are not expected to be called until as late as Friday and these results will likely determine the outcome of the election. Much of the discussion has revolved around votes that are being tabulated late and whether or not they are mail-in votes.
A number of Senate races were also expected to be competitive for Democrats, but the path for Democratic control of the Senate is becoming less and less likely. While Democrats did pick up seats in Arizona and Colorado, with Mark Kelly and John Hickenlooper winning their respective states, races in South Carolina, Maine, Texas and Kentucky that were expected to be close have been declared for the Republican incumbents.
Trump, over the past few months has spread misinformation about the validity of absentee ballots, which is likely influential in why those absentee ballots have been more favorable to Biden. Trump voters would have been likely to vote in person on election day, which would explain the initial Republican leaning vote counts. Since the Biden campaign encouraged early and absentee voting, it makes sense that more of those votes are maintaining favorability towards Biden.
Due to numerous court decisions, absentee ballots in a number of states, including Wisconsin, were not allowed to begin tabulation until the opening of polls. This delay in counting is what is mostly responsible for Biden seeming to close in on larger, earlier Trump leads in rust-belt states.
Trump’s rhetoric mimics that of many autocrats throughout history. For instance, in 1999, the far-right incumbent president of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro disempowered ballots by saying “through the vote, you'll change nothing in this country.” As Trump calls for states to stop counting ballots, as well as maintaining that mail-in ballots are somehow fraudulent, he sends a very similar message that his citizens’ votes do not matter.
Such figures create and capitalize on the chaos they create in order to delegitimize the results of a fair election.
While Trump’s rampant claims of election fraud were expected, the Trump administration has criticized foreign governments for claiming victory in an election during a disputed vote. In yet another display of hypocrisy from this administration, Vice President Pence called Venezuela’s election “a sham — neither free nor fair”, after Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro claimed his victory.
Trump hasn’t been critical of all disputed elections, though, especially when it benefits him. He did not present any criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin during an election dispute in 2018. His then-press secretary deflected any wrongdoing, saying “we don’t get to dictate how other countries operate.”
Despite Trump’s autocratic behavior, results will continue to come in and it is unlikely that a winner will be declared immediately. A number of states are actively counting mail-in votes — which have leaned Democratic across the country — and could cause states that are currently leaning red to flip towards Biden.
Late Tuesday night, we saw crucial battleground states such as Michigan and Wisconsin favoring Trump early in the night as they waited to count all absentee ballots. In the early hours of Nov. 4 however, we saw that these states flipped as more and more mail-in ballots were counted.
Wisconsin, like it did in the 2018 gubernatorial election, skewed Republican until Milwaukee county’s absentee votes were tallied. Despite Trump’s falsehoods, these votes are just as valid as any other vote cast throughout the election. The state was first declared for Biden by CNN early Wednesday afternoon, indicating a Democratic shift is occurring in the rust belt states. Michigan was also called for Biden shortly after Wisconsin.
Early into the morning of Nov. 5, states like Georgia and Pennsylvania continued to inch towards a Biden victory, but Trump is still maintaining a small lead. Trump has also been moving closer to Biden’s early lead in the state of Arizona.
As votes are being counted in Maricopa County, Arizona — the largest county in Arizona — a crowd of armed Trump supporters gathered outside the Maricopa County Elections Building, indicating some of the earliest evidence of unrest related to the election.
Despite warnings about delays in ballot counting and poll numbers, Americans still pushed for a clear winner come evening on Nov. 3. Trump has been trying to delegitimize ballots counted after election day, even though history reveals that states have always remained counting after election night.
The ongoing counting in the battleground states demonstrates the importance of every ballot being counted in this close race. What this election has revealed is that the United States election process is incredibly fragile and there is an urgent need for steps to be taken in order to ensure a safe and fair process. Poll workers are being meticulous to ensure an accurate count — which is something we should appreciate and applaud for, not rush and discredit.
Riley is a junior studying Computer Science and Journalism with an emphasis in Reporting. Haley is a senior studying Journalism and French. Samantha is a junior studying Strategic Communications, with a certificate in Digital Studies. Do you think Trump’s victory claim was too early? Do you think the attack on mail-in ballots is justified? Send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.