The last period of this article was typed at 10 p.m. No results had been called, no candidate had conceded, the election was as “anyone’s game” as could be and the hosts’ voices on MSNBC, CBS and a few other channels mixed together in one auditory clump of, “we don’t know yet.”
But, we at The Mirror had to go to print. We had to click submit.
So, we put the computers to sleep, wiped down our desks, shut the lights off and made our peace with the information we had received up until that point, from both Nov. 3 and the days prior.
Fairfield University Election Day Voting
Todd Pelazza, director of the Department of Public Safety, reminded students in an email on Nov. 2 that Fairfield will be providing shuttles to polling locations, running from the traffic circle from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The University also offered an Uber discount code, #StagsVote2020, to help students both on campus and off to get to their polling locations.
Pelazza also recommended that students prepare for long wait times and continue to practice social distancing and mask-wearing while waiting for their turn to vote.
21 states, along the District of Columbia allow election-day voter registration. Voters can arrive at their town hall or polling location, register and vote in one trip. For Fairfield University students, this offered a quick alternative if they weren’t registered in their home state, or couldn’t make it home in time to vote.
Lists of on-campus residents were given to all polling locations in the town of Fairfield, allowing students to simply show their student identification, or Stag Card, register in the state of Connecticut and cast their vote.
Many students took advantage of the election-day registration opportunity.
Corrine Cude ‘22, Brett Ojdanic ‘22 and Eric Kortick ‘22 all travelled to Holland Hill Elementary School to vote and register in-person.
Cude is originally from Connecticut, and she chose to register and vote at Holland Hill Elementary School in Fairfield at around 9 a.m. She stated that there was some confusion about election-day registration, but the polling staff were given information packets to follow if any problems arose.
She went on to say that the “ballot areas were kept clean” and “social distancing was enforced well.”
Though students were warned of long lines, Cude said that the “lines were short when we first went, as it was still early, but while we were leaving, lines grew longer.”
Ojdanic, from New Jersey, agreed that voting went smoother than Pelazza expected.
“It honestly went better than expected,” Ojdanic said. “People seemed to be coming together no matter their circumstance. A woman with a crying infant, a father with his toddler [and] three unregistered Fairfield University students,” he continued.
Kortick, from Rhode Island, stated that though there was some initial confusion over registration, “the process wasn’t overly difficult, nor time consuming. I was glad I was able to fulfill my civic duty.”
University Voting Statistics
Fairfield students are fairly evenly split between parties and candidates this year. Jack Martorano ‘23 conducted a random survey of 200 students prior to the election to find out voting statistics among the student body. Students are split between the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, and Independent/Unaffiliated almost completely evenly.
However, despite the even split in party lines, the majority of students, around 54 percent, plan to vote for Biden, while Trump has about 45 percent of votes, with just .50 percent of votes going to other third-party candidates.
Matthew Zwolinski ‘22, president of the College Republicans stated that they didn’t have anything planned for Nov. 3. Instead he said: “We would like everyone to spend the day to go out and VOTE.”
When asked how he’s thought these last few days of the election have been going, he answered: “We can see tremendous enthusiasm on both sides of the aisle. We’re just happy to see an increase in voter activism! College Republicans are excited to see the outcome (hopefully by the end of the week).”
Ruby Francis ‘22, president of the College Democrats pointed out that they worked with College Republicans and the Fairfield University’s Student Crystal Ball for Politics Club, to “encourage the student body to vote in the 2020 Election.”
She also stated that College Democrats planned to do a watch party for the results on the evening of Nov. 3.
Francis went on to agree with Zwolinski on the importance of voting, stating, “I hope that students who are eligible to vote have voted and that they remain respectful towards each other.”
“To those voting in person, good luck! I hope the lines aren’t long and everything goes smoothly,” Francis continued.
Student Protest Possibility
During a walk around campus in 2019, you’d see flags hung declaring student’s love for their home state, an earth toned mandala or a tasteful Barstool Sports branded “Saturdays are for the Boys” red, white and blue flag. But, with the general election stirring up student desire to declare their political support, signs for both candidates have started popping up all over campus.
On Oct. 30, dean of students William Johnson sent out an email to the student body regarding freedom of speech on campus, particularly in the case of protests and demonstrations. Johnson reiterated some of Fairfield’s policies regarding freedom of speech and assembly, stating: “Free expression is considered essential towards achieving our academic mission and community life.”
Johnson outlined some of the guidelines for assemblies in the email ahead of the election on Nov. 3.
“Students are allowed to assemble on campus so long as the assembly does not (1) impede or block the ingress or egress to any University building, room, facility or space, (2) deny or deprive others the opportunity to speak or be heard, (3) interfere with or disrupt the University’s normal operation, (4) pose any threat to safety, or (5) interfere with a legitimate educational or institutional process.”
However, Johnson made it clear that the University reserves the right to “terminate any violating activity, including temporarily or permanently removing its participants from the University premises and/or community.”
He defined disruptive behavior as “any behavior that causes inconvenience, annoyance or alarm” and “any behavior that unreasonably obstructs or interferes with the normal operation of the University or hinders or prevents others and/or one’s self from carrying out their educational responsibilities.”
In 2016, the Department of Public Safety increased their presence across campus in response to violence that had broken out at other universities following that year’s election. The increased security presence was also due to the Lower Level of the John A. Barone Campus Center housing a polling location that year, where over 800 community members and an unknown number of students were ready to take advantage of the opportunity to simply walk in and vote.
At the time of the past presidential election, former assistant director of DPS John Ritchie, said, “The decision to add security to the voting area [was] based on national media coverage of some violence that has taken place with political rallies.”
The students at the time had mixed feelings on the need for additional security.
Elisa Castelli ‘19 agreed that the heightened security presence was, and is, needed.
“I think that tensions are extremely high, especially with this election because the two candidates are not everybody’s favorite people,” she said.
Lauren Calderoni ‘18 disagreed.
“I doubt anything would happen [at this campus],” she commented. “I feel like it’s a pretty safe campus and people would not be inclined to get rowdy while voting.”
Today, students seem to have the same beliefs. When asked if they think campus security is needed, despite a polling location not open on campus this year, Connor Simmons ‘22 said, “It wouldn’t hurt. It’s always better to be prepared.”
According to Johnson, no protests or demonstrations took place after the 2016 election. However, he said that DPS will be ready to handle any issues that arise.
“The University goal is to keep all members of our community safe. We recognize that students do have the right to assemble so long as they do so within the guidelines set forth by the University,” he said. “The University is prepared to work with the organizers of any protest to ensure that it takes place in an orderly fashion and does not interfere with the normal operations of the University.”
Pelazza stated that DPS is willing to take measures to prevent any kind of disruptive behavior that interferes with the University.
“We realize that this election has been of great interest for many of us. Given the circumstances, DPS has made plans for increased staffing during the election to monitor and address any behavioral issues,” he said. “Disruptive behavior will not be tolerated and we expect our students to be civil with one another.”
However, Pelazza did not specify what kinds of actions would be taken to prevent this, or what actually constituted as “disruptive behavior.”
Mail-In Ballots and Voter Disenfranchisement
With the plethora of mail-in ballots coming in from all over the country, it will likely prove more difficult for election results to be released right away. In Ohio alone, while mail-in ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 2, they will be accepted until Nov. 13, leaving another full week until all of Ohio’s ballots are fully counted.
While voter disenfranchisement has always been a hot topic each election, from voter identification laws to polling locations and beyond, this year it has become more of an issue than ever, especially in Texas. Harris County, a largely Democratic county, which includes Houston, implemented drive-through polling stations, allowing voters to drive up to a poll worker wearing personal protective equipment and cast their ballots without ever leaving their vehicle. However, some Harris County Republicans claimed that this was being done illegally and demanded to have all 127,000 votes cast at the drive-throughs completely thrown away. This demand was eventually vetoed by the Texas Supreme Court, much to the outrage of Harris County Republicans, who then turned to the federal level, also claiming that the drive-through polling stations were placed unfairly in majority Democrat neighborhoods, according to the New York Times.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the Republican bid on Nov. 3, reported NPR.
In an interview with Axios, President Trump plans to declare his victory on election night, regardless of whether or not all of the votes are counted.
“I think it’s terrible that we can’t know the results of an election the night of the election,” Trump said. “We’re going to go in the night of, as soon as that election’s over, we’re going in with our lawyers.”
Back in 2000, George H.W. Bush and Al Gore went head-to-head to win the presidency. However, the vote counting process was completely disrupted, as votes were inconclusive until the case was taken to the Supreme Court an entire month after Election Day. The results of the election all came down to the vote count in Florida, which was “too close to call” according to the New Yorker. After three weeks of recounts, Bush won the presidency by just over 530 votes.
At first, Gore conceded and handed Bush the election. However, when the votes in Florida were deemed too close to call, Gore reversed his decision, spiraling the nation into weeks and weeks of confusion, forcing the Supreme Court to become involved in the Bush V. Gore case. The Supreme Court ruled that Bush was the president-elect in the end, and Gore accepted the decision, but not before the entire situation was deemed a “Constitutional crisis.”
Some political analysts fear that the country may face another Bush V. Gore moment in history, since the candidates for the 2020 Election seem to be close in the polls. Swing states like Florida and Wisconsin may prove troublesome for voting counts, just like in the 2000 election.
The Battle Ground
On each candidate’s path to the White House, their goal is to convince the nation that they are indeed presidential material, but a close observer would notice that both focus quite heavily on the voters in ten key states. Biden spent his last few days in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio, while Trump hopped through Michigan, Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
These states are often called battleground states, or swing states, due to the possibility of either party winning that states electoral votes due to a “swing” in votes. In 2020 these states are Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and the most surprising addition, Texas, according to The New York Times.
Maine and Nebraska, the two states who are able to split their electoral votes depending on how specific districts vote, instead of the usual “winner-take-all” system, are also seen as swing states. Both states’ second districts are under close watch. Nebraska’s second district usually swings to the right, but in 2008 flipped to support President Barack Obama. Though Maine went to Hillary Clinton in 2016, it’s more rural second district gave their votes to President Donald Trump.
Fox News reports that Biden is leading Trump in some key swing states and “battleground states,” especially Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Arizona. Politico states that “Trump won all four states in 2016, and the results in each could prove critical to determining a winner in Tuesday’s election.”
Biden is doing well in Florida polls, but the state still remains a toss-up–anyone could win. Along with this, “The New York Times/Siena College poll also found that individuals who didn’t vote in 2016 but plan to vote in 2020 are much more likely to support Biden,” according to Fox.
CBS projects that each state’s economic situation will play a key role in winning electoral votes, especially as a result of the widespread economic devastation caused by COVID-19.
According to national polls, Biden has a +8.8 point lead over Trump, and has 52 percent of polling votes while Trump has 43 percent.
However, after the 2016 election, it’s hard to say if the poll numbers will truly reflect the outcome, as Hillary Clinton was slated to win the election by major news outlets, but Trump won the Electoral College vote.
As confusing as this election may seem, there is a light at the end of it. We’ll know who our president is and have clarity as to where our country is going for the next four years and beyond. Despite the outcome, and regardless of any issues that arose in this historic election, we will certainly have a president sworn in on Jan. 20, 2021.
Note for transparency: Molly Lamendola is the Secretary for the College Democrats club.