Despite hurdles, including a pandemic and Republican tactics to making voting harder than it should be, voters showed up for change in 2020.
Voting in the 2020 presidential election took many forms this year due to unprecedented circumstances—including Republican efforts to suppress the vote—but none of them deterred voters from casting ballots this year.
Despite grappling with the coronavirus pandemic, displacement due to natural disasters, and a damaged economy, voters turned out in historic numbers. Through a combination of mail-in, early, and traditional voting at the polls, the nation recorded its highest voter turnout in more than 100 years.
Many states, though, rolled out mail-in voting and absentee ballot drop boxes for the first time ever in this election. That, combined with interference from Republican politicians in states like Texas and Wisconsin, did mean that there were a few snags in the process. In spite of those issues, most election experts agree that this year’s contest both went off far better than expected and may have been the most secure election in the nation’s history.
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Ryan Ring, a voter from Wisconsin, tried to vote via an absentee ballot but encountered a problem; he dropped his ballot off at his local drop box only to find out later it hadn’t been collected.
“I originally received a call from a political group the night before the election and they indicated that there was some trouble with my absentee ballot not being received,” Ring told COURIER.
He explained that through a series of phone calls he found out that his ballot had not been entered into the county system and was marked “inactive.”
“[I called my Village clerk] and asked her what I should do and she told me to head down to my local polling station and vote in-person,” Ring said. “I was able to vote and have it counted.”
Although this is only the second presidential election Ring has voted in he said he stayed up “way too late watching the results come in,” and is anxious to see the official results.
Mya Zemlock, a voter from Pennsylvania, is also feeling anxious about the election results.
“As of 2 p.m on Nov. 5 I am feeling very nervous about the election, though less nervous than when it began,” she told COURIER. “I am very disappointed in my fellow Americans; I never would have believed that half of Americans would vote for Donald Trump even after 4 years of blunders, mistakes, and absolutely dangerous actions. Even after 234,000 Americans have died from COVID-19.”
Zemlock voted in person because she was worried about sending her ballot through the mail. The local polling location was busy on election day, Zemlock said. She ended up waiting in line for about two hours before being able to cast her vote.
“Every single vote counts, and when you live in a swing state the pressure to cast your ballot is even greater,” Zemlock said.
Although turnout increased for in-person voting as well this year, reports indicate that the major increase in voter participation is from mail-in voting. Many states increased accessibility to mail-in systems and people utilized them. Though votes are still being tabulated, nearly 160 million people turned out to vote in the 2020 election.
For months, anxieties ran high over the possibility of a volatile Election Day. President Donald Trump himself fanned the flames by falsely claiming the 2020 election would be riddled with fraud.
But Nov. 3 came and went without much indication of unrest across the country.
“While we don’t know the outcome of the presidential election, the system is working as designed and votes are being counted. That is good news,” wrote the National Task Force on Election Crises in a report published Thursday. “This is not a crisis. And the vote-counting process is proceeding as it should given the unprecedented demand for mail-in ballots.”
Zemlock explained she feels especially passionate about this year’s election because she feels this is one of the most important elections in American history.
“[In the next four years] I hope to see genuine efforts made by those in power to move towards progress,” she said. “Above all, I hope that the increased political activity that we have seen in this election is maintained, as nobody can afford to be apathetic about politics when the lives and freedoms of marginalized Americans are on the line.”