The 2020 American Presidential Election in Ireland was defined by five days spent in front of the television, watching the much anticipated results roll in to ‘The Magic Wall’ on CNN. The result of the votes in the Electoral College was projected by CNN on Saturday at 11:28am ET as the voice of the American people spoke and told the world they wanted to see a change in leadership. President Elect Joe Biden and running mate Vice President Elect Kamala Harris received enough Electoral College votes to claim victory after the state of Pennsylvania was projected in their favour.
The days, weeks, months, and even years of campaigning for the 2020 race to the White House came to a climax on November 3rd 2020, as Americans cast their vote in-person. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many Americans opted to use their right to cast a postal vote for this year’s election. The effect that this had on the results of the election was a slow down in the counting process as many states did not receive the postal ballots until days after the election. Dr. Laurence Davis, a UCC lecturer in the Department of Government and Politics, told University Express that “it will be some time before all the votes can be counted. There are pending lawsuits concerning mail-in ballots, and it is possible that the issue may be taken up by the Supreme Court.”
The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic has been a seminal point in the lead up to the election. It’s impact has been broad ranging from being the topic of campaign ads and TV debates; the physical impact it has on the ability to vote; and the effect on the psychology of the nation as they cast their vote. According to Dr. Davis, the slow and “generally dismissive response to the crisis has galvanised opposition to his presidency, including among those who previously supported him.” When asked about the impact of the highly anticipated and analysed television debates, Dr. Davis, who teaches the US politics at UCC, explained how the polls indicated that “most voters in this election had already made up their minds prior to the debates. It is unlikely that the debates significantly altered public opinion, though they may have mobilised supporters.”
As previously referenced, the results from the election took some time to become apparent due to the increase in postal voting and the subsequent delay of counting those votes. These votes were converted into the Electoral College, ‘winner takes all’ system. In Dr. Davis’ view, the Electoral College system is ‘antiquated and no longer fit for purpose, if it ever was.’ Dr. Davis went on to explain a little known fact about the process, that the American citizens are unaware that they are not ‘actually voting for the president and vice president in the presidential elections.’ In reality, votes are being cast for electors – members of the Electoral College – who, in turn, vote for the president in meetings in the state capitals in December. Every state gets two senators, irrespective of their population, and small states are overrepresented in the Electoral College. The electoral system is designed this way to ensure more populous states do not dominate the vote during each election season. Dr. Davis used the example of Wyoming to highlight this point. “A vote in Wyoming carried 3.8 times the weight in the Electoral College as does a vote in California.”
The ‘winner takes all’ aspect of the race is also a highly criticised drawback of the Electoral College. This urges candidates to “focus disproportionate attention on so-called ‘swing’ or ‘battleground’ states, with the result that millions of voters in ‘non-competitive’ states are largely ignored.” President-Elect Joe Biden held a comfortable lead in the polls before the election, however, commentators and analysts were more wary of polls than ever this year, considering the result of the 2016 election. It must be remembered that one candidate can win the popular vote but lose the presidential race, as happened between Hilary Clinton and President Trump in 2016. Dr. Davis shone a light on this by highlighting that ‘it is possible for a candidate to not get a single person’s vote in 39 states or the District of Columbia, and yet still be elected president by winning the popular vote in only 11 states.’
As this article goes to print, the citizens of America have appointed a new President-Elect and Vice-President Elect, they will be sworn in to their respective positions on January 20th 2021.