It’s safe to say that this year’s presidential election has been monumentally different than any other in recent history.
The months-long lead-up alone has given this particular election an extra feeling of importance. Country-wide protests in the wake of Black people’s deaths at the hands of police, the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett in RBG’s place and significant losses experienced by the stock market (the likes of which haven’t been seen since the Gulf War in 1991) — let alone the COVID-19 pandemic — have created a unique election environment.
These events were (consciously or subconsciously) in the back of everyone’s minds. This has increased the voter turnout rate across the board, with expectations for this presidential election to have the highest turnout since 1908. That means that more of the eligible voters will be represented by the outcome of the election, which is the heart of a functioning democracy. In particular, there was an increase in young voters, many of whom support Biden over Trump.
Among conservative constituents, there was still an overarching feeling that a win for Biden would “take your liberty and turn it inside out” and that President Trump will succeed in winning another term.
The ongoing pandemic induced an influx of mail-in ballots, as people were still trying to limit how much contact they have with people outside of their own homes. For the most part, these absentee ballots were cast by Biden supporters rather than by Trump supporters. Because of this, many media predict in-person ballots — cast disproportionately by Trump supporters — will off-set the high proportion of mail-in ballots cast for Biden.
For business owners, images of peaceful Black Lives Matter protests following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are stained by a small number of violent outbreaks and property destruction, a number that President Trump claims is much bigger. This led some businesses to board up their storefronts in preparation for the election as if they were preparing for a hurricane.
Universities also feared civil unrest and unsafe post-election conditions, such as at George Washington University, where students were advised to prepare “as you normally would for a hurricane or a snowstorm,” echoing business owners’ fears. These fears were never actualized, however, as the results have been met with general peacefulness.
So what does all this mean for us at Rowan? For starters, we all need to heed the advice of many media organizations and politicians to be patient with the results. Because of the way states have adapted voting rules to account for the omnipresence of the coronavirus, it will take significantly longer for all the votes to be counted.
While here in New Jersey the results for president are confirmed, states like Alaska won’t have an official count for a while. According to The New York Times, “The only results reported on election night [for Alaska] will be from in-person early voting through Oct. 29 and from the precincts on Election Day. No mail or other absentee ballots will be counted until about a week later.”
Considering that Biden and Trump are, at the time of this writing, very close in several states, with the possibility of either candidate winning those electoral votes, it’s especially important that we are patient and don’t declare a winner before every vote is tallied, like President Trump has already done.
When we do finally get the official outcome of the election, it’s important that we stay civil with each other. While it’s extremely unlikely that a reaction like that anticipated by GWU would occur on our campus — due to our suburban location as well as our distance from the country’s capital — it’s still crucial to be aware of what’s happening across the country so we can better prepare ourselves for the election results and reactions.
What’s most important for us at Rowan is that we support each other and maintain civility and safety within our community. It’s OK to disagree about politics, but we shouldn’t allow ourselves to become violent due to the political polarization we’ve seen intensify over the past several years. It’s OK to peacefully protest – as Rowan students have already done this year – but again, we need to ensure violence has no home on our campus.
No matter what the outcome of this historic election is — and whether you are personally happy with the official results or not — we need to prioritize the safety, security and unity of the Rowan community. Yes, this election is important and may decide the fate of our democracy, as NAACP President Derrick Johnson elaborates, but it’s also important on a smaller scale that we don’t let this election divide our community and irreparably damage what makes Rowan what it is: our ability to come together to address problems and support each other in times of need.
Remember: before we are Democrats or Republicans, we are all Profs.
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