Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
November 29, 2020

There will be no sigh of relief on Nov. 3.

How we can prepare for an uncertain future

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD | October 29, 2020

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COURTESY OF SHOURYA ARASHANAPALLI

Winning votes is only the first hurdle for the 2020 presidential candidates; either may refuse to concede.

Election Day is less than a week away. The stakes couldn’t be higher. As Democratic nominee Joe Biden has repeatedly said this year, the very character of our nation is on the ballot.

Recent presidential and vice presidential debates didn’t affect polls significantly. It seems that most of the country decided long ago whom they would be voting for. At this point, we’re stuck in a political waiting game.

There are many variables at play in terms of when votes for the next president will be tallied. States have different deadlines for when they will accept absentee/mail-in votes. 

The deadlines are already being contested. Across the country, Republicans have fought to discount ballots received after Election Day. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled earlier this week not to accept mail-in ballots after Election Day in Wisconsin, but upheld lower court rulings that extended deadlines in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. 

We likely won’t know our next President on Tuesday night, but we can prepare ourselves for the possible realities we may encounter in the coming weeks. 

First, let’s consider how U.S. President Donald Trump could be re-elected. Although it would technically be possible for him to win both the popular vote and the Electoral College, these odds are incredibly slim. Trump will probably lose the popular vote, and likely by a larger margin than in 2016.

Unfortunately, there is a possibility that he could lose the popular vote and still be re-elected. While the Electoral College favors Republican candidates, an electoral/popular vote split is less likely than in 2016. It’s improbable, but certainly not impossible. 

In the unlikely event that neither candidate receives enough electoral votes to win — which hasn’t happened since 1824 — each state would get one vote in the House of Representatives. It’s difficult to predict the outcome of this scenario; fortunately, it is unlikely to occur.

If Trump has the lead on November 3, it’s hard to know whether Biden will try to contest the results. The former Vice President’s campaign has mounted a legal team out of concern that “this president is going to try to steal this election.” If the Supreme Court is asked to weigh in on the election results, Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation on Monday has already shifted the odds in favor of a Trump victory. It seems that Trump and Senate Republicans rushed through the confirmation process in part to improve their odds of holding onto the White House. 

If Trump does contest, there are fears that Barrett may not recuse herself from questions regarding the legitimacy of mail-in ballots or the election itself. If Barrett does not recuse herself, three of the nine justices deciding the next President worked on the legal team that helped Republicans claim victory in 2000. 

Current polls suggest that a Biden victory is the more likely outcome, but even a landslide would not necessarily guarantee a simple and peaceful transfer of power. There are many paths Trump and his legal team could take to ensure he stays in power, such as exploiting ambiguities in the Constitution. 

In addition, the President continues to promote distrust in election results by repeating debunked claims about voter fraud. Experts suggest this may be part of a larger strategy to question the validity of the election’s outcomes. 

Another rare, though possible, outcome is an uncontested Biden victory. Trump could break character and choose not to fight the results of an election, but it would be naive to expect this. We must expect unrest regarding the election, especially if victory hinges on just a few swing states.

We’re proud to be part of a generation that is politically active, and many of us will take to the streets to protest an unjust election. If you are in Baltimore, consider taking a short train ride to demonstrate in our nation’s capital. If you are at home, get involved in your own communities. Of course, if you choose to attend any public event, wear a mask and practice social distancing.

Even if Biden does win, we must continue to pressure him to bring about necessary radical change. We must keep fighting for equality and representation in government. Casting a ballot is not the end of our work. 

That said, we’ll take another opportunity to remind readers: If you haven’t already cast a ballot, vote. It’s probably too late to request, receive and mail in a ballot by Tuesday, but you can still submit ballots at drop-off locations or vote early in-person or on Nov. 3. Baltimore residents can cast their ballots on Election Day less than a mile from the Homewood campus at Barclay Elementary School

Amid an unprecedentedly stressful election cycle, we must also prioritize our mental health. Remind yourself that you can’t pour from an empty cup, and take a break when you’re starting to feel burnt out. Try one of the many programs and apps that address election-related mental health concerns, or take advantage of the resources available through Hopkins, like the Counseling Center and A Place To Talk.

Approach Election Day with a healthy mindset and reasonable expectations. We don’t know for sure what will happen next week or in the months leading up to the inauguration. However, we do know that the fight for a fair democracy and just society is far from over. This election is just the beginning. 

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