OPINION: Countdown to the 3rd: The end is nigh

Nov. 3 is finally here; but closure, official results won’t come any time soon



Pennsylvania will likely be the deciding factor in the 2020 election, but we probably won’t see official results for days.

JACOB HERSH, Evergreen columnist

“And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

-W.B. Yeats, “The Second Coming”

The stage is set. The characters have all taken their positions. The lights are cued. The sound director is getting high behind the theater with the assistant director. I am staring at a map of Pennsylvania and trying to figure out whether I’ll have to hide in the woods from angry Facebook commenters for a while.

It’s Election Day, everybody! Clap your hands, we made it this far together — and we may be almost done.

Last week, I talked about my predictions for today, which essentially argued that Trump would take Pennsylvania, a crucial swing state in this year’s election. In doing so, he would clinch the national by 20 electoral points at most, ushering in four more years of the Donald Dynasty.

I still believe this — with a caveat. We’re not going to see the official results as soon as today. Hell, we might not even see them this week — Alaska doesn’t start counting absentee ballots until Nov. 10 and California is estimated to have their final mail-in votes on Nov. 20.

The pandemic has put a spin on the tradition of “knowing the president by 3 a.m. EST on election night.” We’ll probably have a pretty decent idea of who the president will be, based on the swing state turnout and the absentee ballots. I imagine, based on the number of ballots sent out, that FiveThirtyEight, RealClear and others will be able to set up at least some modicum of statistical modeling to give us a fairly transparent picture of who’s likely to win.

Which brings us to election night behavior — more specifically, will one of the candidates declare premature victory? If so, what’s to stop them?

The most pertinent outlets for premature victory shenanigans from either side are, most obviously, Facebook and Twitter. Both CEOs — Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey, respectively — have said their websites will label early election victory posts, in the event that the results haven’t been “independently verified.”

Dorsey, who’s beginning to look like post-quarantine Nick Mullen, claimed that Twitter would consider election results officially verified when “either an announcement is made from state election officials, or a public projection is made from at least two authoritative, national news outlets.”

In any case, there’s still the potential for either candidate to call an early victory, regardless of the mail-in ballots yet to be delivered and counted.

This week is going to be a particularly difficult time for voters, many of whom want to cast their ballot and have the entire process be finished, with a candidate chosen by tonight and the business of filling the Oval Office for the next four years over and done with. But that simply doesn’t look like it’ll be the case, barring a complete blowout of one candidate over the other, which frankly doesn’t seem likely based on my analysis of the polling.

Anyhow, regardless of your political leaning, it’s important to consider what this night means for Americans across the country, and more importantly, the immediate effect the results of this election will cause.

Consider this: there are hundreds of thousands, even millions, of grimy, unwashed voters on both sides. Many are out of a job, many are angry at the perceived injustices they see coming from both sides of the political aisle and many are itching for some kind of violence.

Will the election results (or lack thereof) give credence to riots and perhaps act as some kind of catalyst for a wave of civil unrest in the country that we haven’t seen since, I dare say, the 1863 Draft Riots, but on a significantly larger scale?

I don’t think it’s wise to speculate on potential violence for a potentially close election; I do, however, think it’s important to be prepared for any possibility, given the heated partisan nature of this year’s election. Combined with the protests and increased police presence we’ve already seen across the country, I don’t necessarily think it’s out of the question to expect rioting on a larger scale, regardless of who gets into office.

The interim period between Election Day and an official announcement, regardless of how long it may be, can only exacerbate and compound the fear and uncertainty that voters will be feeling — fuel for protests and riots that may turn deadly.

Anyhow, it’s been a long road here, full of doomscrolling and predictions with a tenuous grasp on reality. The third, as Hubie Dubois would say, “is upon us!”

Friends, I know what I’ll be doing tonight, and it’s the same thing I did in 2016 — frantically refreshing the polls and drinking copious amounts of an unnamed energy drink.

I’ve also taken this time to look back, especially since this is my last “Countdown to the 3rd” column to publish before the election. I can’t say I haven’t enjoyed putting a spin on the news for my dear devoted readers, all of whom, I’m sure, would kill and die for me at a moment’s notice. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being the Virgil to the collective Dante of our readers, a makeshift guide through the nine circles of political hell — but that time has almost come to a close.

So tonight, vote, if you haven’t already (just kidding), pour yourself a snifter of your favorite beverage, and watch the results come in. We may not have an answer by morning, but that’s OK. Just smile and let yourself go numb, as has been the tradition in American politics since the beginning of time. And hey! If you don’t like the results, well, there’s always a grassy knoll in Texas somewhere.