Understanding Elections

Whitney Holland, contributer

After a long week of uncertainty, Democratic nominee, Joe Biden has officially become the United States’ President-Elect, defeating incumbent President Donald Trump.  

Media sources made the news official on Saturday, November 7, projecting Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election after reaching and passing the magic number, 270.

Biden surpassed the 270 electoral votes mark early on Saturday with Pennsylvania and Nevada favoring Biden and giving him their 26 electoral votes combined. At this point, he has earned a total of 290 electoral votes.

Although sources have named Biden as the President-Elect, many states have not finalized their votes or are entering a recount.

According to CNN, President Trump has claimed that he has won the election and there has been voter fraud. The Trump campaign has been looking at filing lawsuits in multiple states to address voter fraud. 

Trump and his vice president, Mike Pence, have yet to reach out to the President and Vice President Elects. 

This election has brought up many questions surrounding how the election processes work in the United States, including what recounts look like, how the electoral college works, and how voting has worked this year. 

How Do State Vote Recounts Work

In the United States of America, the basis of what signifies a recount is left up to each state. It is also important to note that rarely do these recounts change the predicted outcome of a race. According to CNBC, since 2000, only three out of 5,778 elections have been changed due to recounts.

In this election, recounts are expected to take place in many of the battlegrounds–Wisconsin, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Arizona for sure–but possibly in Nevada and North Carolina as well. 

For most states, recounts occur when the difference between the two candidates is small, typically 1% or less. In most states, the losing candidate has to file for a recount since they do not happen automatically. 

For all requested recounts, these states have until November 20 to report their official recounted voting numbers. 

To learn more about a different state’s protocol for a recount, check out https://ballotpedia.org/Election_recount_laws_and_procedures_in_the_50_states,_2020  

How does the Electoral College Work

In the United States of America, there are two ways of calculating votes: the popular vote, and the electoral college. These two systems date back to the early years of the country and were created by the Founding Fathers.

The popular vote is just what it sounds like, one person is entitled to one vote, all votes are counted, and the candidate with the most votes wins the popular vote. 

The electoral college is a little bit more complex. This system was put in place to give every state an equal opportunity to vote for changes in the country. This system keeps places like California, with a population of about 39.5 million people, from overpowering places like Wyoming, with a population of about 580,000 people. 

The electoral college gives each state a number of votes based on the population. As the votes are finalized in each state, the candidate with the most votes wins the electoral votes for that state. 

There are 538 total electoral votes or the total number of seats in the Senate plus the total number of seats in the House of Representatives, plus the three representatives from the District of Columbia. 

To win the presidency, a candidate must earn 270 electoral votes or more. 

Although the more populous states will have more electoral votes, it still makes smaller states, like Wyoming, more valuable to win because of every electoral vote counts. 

How Has Voting Worked This Year?

Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, voting was forced to change how it is typically conducted. In the United States of America, a majority of voting is typically done at in-person poll locations on Election Day. 

This year, many states adopted a mail-in voting strategy, sending ballots to each legal voter. These ballots could then be returned to drop off locations or through the mail. In-person polling was still available for those who felt comfortable. 

Because of the pandemic, nationwide, there was a large increase in the number of votes received through the mail or drop off locations. At the last election in 2016, 58 million people voted with mail-in or drop off options. For this election, over 101 million people voted with these contactless forms.

The 2020 election also was historic for voter turnout. In Larimer County, 89.2% of the registered voters showed up to vote.

The 2020 election has been very long and complicated, but an end seems to be in sight. Through learning about the systems that are put in place for the United States, people can be more knowledgeable voters and help the country grow.