For everyone anxiously awaiting final results in this year’s presidential race, the process feels anything but painless. But there is much to be thankful for in how Election Day proceeded, particularly given earlier fears about what could have happened.
Yes, there were glitches: power outages at a few polling places; a water-main break that disrupted vote-counting; the occasional bad voting machine; lines at some polling locations; partisan troublemakers who tried to hassle voters; disputes about some poll workers failing to wear masks. None of these things reflect well on our democracy.
But President Trump’s exhortation to “go into the polls and watch very carefully” did not lead to the wide-scale vigilantism that was feared. Social distancing precautions because of the coronavirus did not cause chaos or interminable delays, as they did earlier this year in several primary elections. Voting was, on the whole, calm and efficient. It will take time to fully evaluate, but states generally did not let themselves be overwhelmed by the massive and relatively abrupt shift toward absentee voting, and the shift no doubt diminished the crush that would have occurred if voting in person had been the only option. As far as is known, malign foreign actors seem to have been deterred or prevented from interfering in the voting process.
The biggest election-night problem came from Mr. Trump himself, as he claimed victory based on incomplete tallies and kicked off his push to delegitimize continued vote-counting in states in which he held an early lead. Of course, his campaign wanted all votes counted in the states in which the president was trailing. Encouragingly, though, some prominent Republicans broke with Mr. Trump to support fair vote-counting. “All these votes have to be counted that are in now,” former New Jersey governor Chris Christie said. “Tonight was not the time to make this argument.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said, “Claiming you win the election is different from finishing the counting.”
Meanwhile, social media sites executed their plans to respond to the president’s misinformation. Twitter placed a warning screen in front of a tweet from Mr. Trump declaring that “they are trying to STEAL the Election.” Facebook took slightly longer to add a “votes are being counted” label to posts from each candidate, in addition to running notifications at the top of users’ feeds indicating a winner had not been projected. Their job is far from complete — at least as long as Mr. Trump’s efforts to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election continue. #StopTheSteal was trending Wednesday, with a boost from far-right influencers, and allegations have only picked up in volume and in tone.
As the nation girds for what could be a tortuous process of vote-counting, recounts and legal challenges, it can breathe half a sigh of relief that Election Day voting itself was largely orderly, after such a heated, divisive campaign. Americans can thank the election officials and volunteers who worked to make that happen — and give themselves a pat on the back for turning out in record numbers to do their duty as citizens.
— The Washington Post, Nov. 4; Online: https://www.washingtonpost.com