On Saturday, November 7th, Americans woke up to the fourth day of waiting to find out who would win the 2020 presidential election. Former Vice-President Joe Biden of the Democratic Party had more votes than President Donald Trump of the Republican Party. But the race was too close to call. Why was it taking so long?
During an election, every county in the United States hires poll workers. Poll workers play a very important role in a democracy. They welcome the voters at the polling place and answer questions. They process the ballots, or the sheets of paper that list the candidates that Americans can vote for. They check the voters’ signatures. They make sure the ballots are valid, or correct. Finally, they help the voters scan their ballots into a machine that looks like a huge printer. The vote is then counted.
When the votes are counted in a state, a winner is determined. The winner receives that state’s electoral college votes. In the electoral college system, people vote to tell their state who should be president. States then vote for the president. A state has an amount of electoral college votes determined by the population of the state. A president needs 270 electoral college votes to win the presidency.
In most elections, the winner is called, or announced, on the evening of Election Day, after the polling places are closed and most of the ballots are counted. This year was different. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many more Americans voted by mail than ever before. Mail-in voting means that people can fill in their ballots at home. Then, they can either put the ballot into a mailbox or take the ballot to a post office or a polling place. In the 2020 election, this meant that more ballots than usual were counted after Election Day. In addition, more Americans—especially young people—voted than ever before. About 160 million Americans cast their vote, the highest number in history. It took a lot of time to count all these votes.
For four days, Americans—and people all over the world—eagerly waited to see who the next U.S. president would be. The decision rested on a handful of “swing” states, or states where support for both parties is evenly divided. In this election, the biggest swing state was Pennsylvania. The result in this state was too close to call until almost all of the votes were counted. The Republicans needed to win this state to still have a chance of winning the election, but on Saturday morning, it became clear that the Democrats had more votes. This gave Joe Biden the 270 electoral college votes he needed to win the election. He became the President-Elect, and Kamala Harris became the Vice-President-Elect, the first woman and the first Black person to achieve that role.
What Do You Think? Many people are very happy that Joe Biden will become president. Others are bitterly disappointed that Donald Trump lost. Why do you think it is important that each person should get a say in who our leader is? How can we express our opinions while respecting people with different opinions?
Photo Credit: Official White House photo by David Lienemann. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division [LC-DIG-ppbd-00605]