The 2020 election map, at first glance, looks decidedly, well, unfinished.
Yes, there’s the traditional blue along the coasts and a large red swath from the upper Plains into the South, but there’s also still a lot of gray area – both literally and figuratively.
Five critical battleground states – Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania and North Carolina – remain uncalled by CNN for either President Donald Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden. Those states will, without question, determine the identity of the next president. Both men retain paths to victory, though Biden is closing in on the 270 electoral votes he needs to take the White House.
What’s difficult to remember – but critically important to remember – amid this ongoing uncertainty is that this is all a) totally expected and b) totally normal.
America votes: What you need to know
There is absolutely nothing in the Constitution or any federal law that mandates a winner of the election be declared on Election Day. In fact, for much of the 19th century, it took days – if not weeks -- for the winner to be declared. (The internet moved more slowly in the 19th century, after all!) And even in more recent elections, declaring a winner usually extends beyond election night – as the state-by-state counting of votes can often drag for hours or days. (In 2000, we didn’t know who the president would be until December 12 – more than a month after Election Day.)
That’s the “normal” piece. The “expected” piece is that everyone knew going into Tuesday that the coronavirus had fundamentally altered the math on how people cast votes. Whereas roughly 46 million people had voted earlier in 2016, more than 100 million did so in 2020 – a stunning increase driven by concerns about Covid-19 and a series of state law changes designed to make it easier to vote early, whether in person or by mail.
Particularly in our urban cores where millions upon millions of votes were cast and need to be counted, the sea change in how America votes ensured that the tabulation process was going to be both slower than in recent elections and slower than any of us would like.
When you double the number of early votes and keep the same rules in place about when and how they will be counted (and the same or fewer number of election officials to count them), what we are seeing this Wednesday morning is to be expected.
The slowness of the process, then, is a sign that the system is working, not the opposite.
Which makes what Trump said in the wee hours of Wednesday morning all the more irresponsible. “We were going to win this election,” Trump told allies in the East Room of the White House. “Frankly, we did win. So we’ll be going to the US Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop. As far as I’m concerned, we already did win.”
No. Not even close. The votes currently being counted were cast in a legal manner under their particular state laws. It would be an absolute perversion of our Democratic process if those votes were somehow ignored or blocked because they weren’t counted on the actual Election Day.
That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.