4 Things to Expect Before and After Election Day

October 26, 2020

Person meditating with a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream

The days are long, the saying goes, but the years are short. Well, in 2020 it’s more like, the days are endless and oh my god when will this year be over. 

We promise, 2020 will end… eventually. But first we have to hold an election. In fact, we ARE holding an election: Despite the pandemic and any number of other challenges facing our country, people are already voting by the millions, leading experts to predict a historically huge turnout by the time polls close on Election Day. We love everything about this—that so many people are motivated to make sure their voices are heard is great news for our democracy.

The bad news is that we’ve seen a lot of voter suppression this year, including confusion and misinformation deliberately being spread about voting and the whole democratic process. Which is why we thought it’d be helpful to talk through some of the things we’re likely to see and experience leading up to Election Day and beyond. Read this and take a deep breath. Democracy is in our hands—we can do this, America!

  1. The Pandemic Will Continue to Have an Impact

    COVID-19 has affected everybody and everything this year. Election officials are working to ensure the safety of every in-person voter (and all the poll workers there to help them), but that translates to fewer polling places and longer lines. They’re also processing an unprecedented number of ballots from Americans who chose to vote by mail this year, which has caused many people to worry that ballots could be delayed in the mail.

    Here’s the thing: We’ve been through times like this before. Americans have voted during a civil war, a pandemic, and eras of tumultuous change. This election has been challenging and sometimes bizarre, to say the least, but we’ll get through it. Be patient. Be proactive. And if you have questions, turn to trusted sources. Together we’ll make sure that everyone’s voice is heard.

  2. There Will Be Uncertainty About How and When to Vote

    The closing of polling places will likely lead to a lot of confusion on Election Day as voters show up at the wrong site. During early voting, ridiculously long lines and delays have plagued some states, and it’ll likely only get worse on Election Day. Plan ahead now. Find your polling place (even if you think you know it, please double-check), bring snacks and water, maintain social distancing, and wear your mask! 

    There’s a chance that you may see so-called “poll watchers” at your site. Intimidating voters is a form of voter suppression—and it’s illegal. Report intimidation to 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

    Many voters who decided to avoid all that by voting by mail are finding the rules and regulations hard to follow. No, voting shouldn’t be full of so many pitfalls, but Americans are so excited to have their say that nothing will stop us now. Voting by mail? Send that ballot in today! Voting in person? Plan ahead!

  3. Election Night May Become Election Week

    Thanks to the crush of mail-in ballots, the results in many of the big races will likely be slow to come in on election night. The big TV news networks love to make it seem like we should expect to know everything right away, but that’s often not how things work, even during less challenging times. 

    The big thing to be prepared for, though, is that the candidate who appears to be winning on the night of November 3 may not be the actual winner! With millions of mail-in ballots, we can’t know who has won until all the votes, not just those cast in-person on Election Day, are counted. (Some states allow absentee and overseas ballots to come in as late as November 23! Check out other key dates here.) And that could take a while. In fact, we should really start to think of it more as Election Week, not Election Day. 

    It won’t be easy, but we’re going to have to get comfortable with the idea of potentially not knowing the full results for a long time. But that’s OK! Every vote represents someone’s voice, and democracy is all about making sure every voice is heard.

  4. Remember: It's All About The Electoral College

    Let’s just get this out of the way: The Electoral College should be abolished. It’s a relic of antiquity, a product of racist and white-supremacist thinking. Most Americans grow up being taught that we live in a country where our votes determine who is elected president. Well, that’s true most of the time… but two presidents in the last 20 years were elected despite not having claimed the most votes. 

    The Electoral College system is confusing on its best day, and some political leaders may use that to their advantage if the vote tallies in key states are very close, leading them to attempt to install electors that do not reflect the popular vote. The good news is that the Supreme Court recognizes what a mess the electoral system is and this summer ruled unanimously that states have the power to require electors to vote for the candidate who won the popular vote. Sounds like a step in the right direction to us!

Not many of us will be sad to see this election, or this year, come to an end, but despite everything 2020 has thrown at us, we love Election Day and we love Election Week and we’ve been inspired by the millions of voters turning out to strengthen our democracy. It is truly a beautiful thing. The people have the power—we’re going to be OK.