The Election Day That Lasted a Week

Nov 3

Election Day. The United States, and the rest of the world, held their breaths as we watched the polls with a horrified fascination. The final chapter of 2020 was unfolding. For weeks and weeks, we have been registering to vote, talking to our families about voting, donating to Joe Biden’s campaign, volunteering in phone banks, doing everything we could to keep President Trump from getting re-elected. It was like watching a slow-motion car crash, unable to tear your eyes away, yet knowing you shouldn’t watch. 

With four years of President Trump in office, with countless lies, his impeachment, and the disastrous handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, I never expected the polls to be this close. Yet every time I refresh my screen and throw my phone away, screaming in frustration, I am brutally reminded of the division and unrest that spans this country. For every state that favored Biden, another went to Trump. At one point they were nearly neck and neck.

Like any other sane person watching the election, I alternated between would make the giant swaths of red filling the electoral college more bearable. I jumped for joy when Texas turned briefly blue at 9 PM PST and then turned off the TV when it turned red, and stayed red, twenty minutes later. I opened TikTok when Florida turned red, scrolling through endless videos about the blue wave of water heading to Florida this Sunday and returning the Louisiana Purchase. At one point, I remember Googling countries that offer work and student visas to Americans and becoming extremely invested in moving to Portugal. 

One of the unique features of the 2020 election is the late counting of the mail-in ballots, which are slowly turning the tide in Biden’s favor. Of all of my research, reading infographics, watching political commentators, and watching multiple news sources, I truly wish this had been made clearer. Vox News has a really great video explaining the phenomenon of the “Red Mirage”. We are so used to getting everything immediately that we expect our election results to be fast, even at the expense of counting votes. 

I passed out at midnight, the earliest I have ever slept this semester, with the polls still inconclusive. Joe Biden was barely in the lead and the majority of the swing states were red. I remember this indescribable feeling of despair, knowing that I could wake up to another four years of Trump in office. When my future as a woman of color depends on the outcome of an election that happens every four years, you have every right to take a break from life, cry, and forget about your schoolwork, even if it’s just for one night. 

I woke up two hours later, disoriented and exhausted. I quickly stumbled through a lecture quiz, the only schoolwork I did that day. I am grateful my professors had canceled all of my Wednesday classes, a luxury many of my fellow peers did not have. 

I spent the next four hours in a daze: drinking water, making pancakes, and stress baking brownies. I was in a constant state of anxiety, refreshing the polls every five minutes, praying that a swing state would flip. With every reload I wondered if Trump's margin of victory would close. Would he sweep all the swing states as he had the last election?

And they slowly flipped. First Wisconsin turned light blue, then Minnesota’s margin began to shrink. Arizona was solid blue! Finally, at 5:45 AM PST, I trudged back to bed, accepting that Pennsylvania and Nevada were only two-thirds finished with counting their ballots. North Carolina and Georgia were otherwise occupied, leaving their mail-in ballots untouched. The sky was getting lighter.

Nov 4

I refuse to look at my phone without eating something first. Only after halfway through my morning pancakes, I saw that both Wisconsin and Michigan were solid blue. Biden is only six electoral votes from the 270 he needs to secure the election. I am running through all the scenarios that could go wrong. Maybe the post office lost the mail-in ballots for Pennsylvania. Maybe Nevada flips back to red. Democrats and Republicans are demonstrating outside of the White House and I worry things will get ugly. 

I am terrified of rampant police brutality against the Black community if Trump is re-elected. Will there be retaliation against the minorities who voted for Biden? Would Trump supporters feel justified for perpetrating violence? 

With such a thin margin between the two candidates and the results still at a stalemate, the electoral map shows the deep divisions within our society. The volatile state of current politics coupled with civil unrest prompted gun purchases to spike across the country, with the majority of purchases from women and members of the Black community. The boarding of storefronts in major cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Washington DC, Walmart briefly removing guns and ammunition from their shelves reflects the state our country is currently in. Over 69 million Americans voted for Trump this election, most of them older, most of them white. Our political preferences mirror our values and morals and these numbers show that nearly half of voting Americans have the same ideals as President Trump and are keen to settle in for four more years of madness. 

One bright side of the madness of the 2020 election Looking at the information we currently have, in nearly every state, Gen-Z voters strongly favored Biden. The youth vote gives me hope for the future, but it is far from enough. Political party preference at the polls is only the tip of the iceberg. It is a painful reality we must reconcile with and resolve our differences before we can make progress. We need to have these difficult conversations with our family and friends. There is a lot at stake with this election but there’s also much to gain. Meanwhile, I keep watching the news, praying that Pennsylvania flips to Biden’s favor. I am still grappling with the sheer number of people who still support President Trump. Call it naivety, but I want to believe that we are better than this. We are better than this.