Every four years, Americans cast their vote for president. On Election Night, millions of Americans stay up late to watch the results. News anchors on our favorite channel tell us who the latest projected winner of a certain state is. We count electoral college votes and anxiously wait to see who will cross that 270-vote threshold to win the election.
This year will most likely be different. With the coronavirus pandemic still present, there is going to be a record number of mail-in ballots cast in this election. Since mail-in ballots often take longer to tabulate, many states may only have partial results on Election Night. There is a good chance we won’t know who won the election on Election Night.
We must prepare ourselves to not know the results on Election Night and understand that this in no way means that the election is not legitimate.
The White House has been hard at work casting doubt on any delays in vote tabulation, claiming that we are supposed to know who won the election on Election Night. The fact is, there is no rule or law that requires states to announce the winner of the election on Election Night. We should ensure that results are not announced until every vote is counted, even if that means a delayed result.
So how long should we expect to wait? No one knows exactly how long it may take to have the election results. If it is a close race, it may take a week or a few weeks until all the votes are counted. If there are any recounts, there could be further delays to the final results. For reference, during the 2000 presidential election, it took over a month to get the final results of the election.
A delayed result would normally just be an inconvenience. But this year a delayed result is so concerning because of what President Trump may try to do between Election Night and when the final results are announced.
The primary concern is that Trump may have weeks, between Election Night and when the final results are announced, to use the Office of the President to cast doubt on the validity of the election results if he loses.
Trump has a history of promoting unfounded claims of voter fraud. After the 2016 election—in which Trump won—he maintained that voter fraud was such a widespread problem that he launched a commission to investigate it. Trump’s own commission was disbanded after it found no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Despite all of the evidence which shows that widespread voter fraud is not an issue in the United States, Trump and his campaign continue to promote these false claims.
Trump lied about voter fraud in an election that he won. Imagine what he may do if he loses.
This year, with the increase in mail-in ballots, Trump has continued to promote a false narrative that there will be widespread mail-in ballot fraud. The truth is, vote-by-mail has virtually non-existent percentage of fraud. An analysis of the 2016 and 2018 elections in three vote-by-mail states found that only 0.0025 percent of the ballots cast were possibly cases of voter fraud.
Due to the fact that Democrats tend to have more voters who choose to vote-by-mail, some fear on Election Night it could appear as if Trump has a lead in the election, but after mail-in ballots are cast, Joe Biden could win the election. If that happens and the election is close, it is almost certain that Trump will shout fraud and attempt to challenge the results. It is important to note that mail-in ballots are just as valid as ballots cast in-person.
Trump has made it clear that he has no interest in leaving office, even hinting that he would fight to stay in power.
Donald Trump has repeatedly refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power. The Republican-held Senate was so concerned by Trump’s recent rhetoric that the body unanimously voted in favor of a Resolution that “reaffirms its commitment to the orderly and peaceful transfer of power called for in the Constitution of the United States.”
While there is a lot of work to be done between now and the election, we must be prepared for the possibility the election will not be called on Election Night and Donald Trump will try to fight the election results. Stand Up Republic is partnering with several other pro-democracy organizations to Protect the Results of the election. We are working in a coalition to mobilize across the country if Trump refuses to accept the results of the election. Sign up now to help Protect the Results.