Record editorial: Patience will be needed on Election Day if presidential result isn’t clear
On Tuesday night, Parkites will join people around the country in huddling around TVs and anxiously refreshing Twitter feeds and news websites.
After a contentious presidential campaign that has dragged on for more than a year, votes at last will be counted.
But unlike in most presidential election years when media outlets can confidently declare a winner several hours after the polls close, responsible news consumers will understand that the result may very well be unclear on election night this year. In fact, experts say the probability of that happening is high.
With record numbers of voters casting their ballots through the mail due to the coronavirus pandemic, it may take states several days — or even weeks — to finish counting votes. It’s possible that ballots tallied after Election Day may swing a battleground state — or even the election — from one candidate to the other.
So what can Summit County residents do if there is uncertainty on election night and in the days that follow? Hang tight and turn to trusted news outlets for information.
Election officials from both Republican and Democratic states are adamant that, despite what the president has repeatedly claimed, votes counted after Tuesday will be valid. It will be a sign not of a rigged game but rather that the system is working — that every voter who submitted a legitimate ballot by their state’s deadline will have their voice heard.
Of course, Utahns may be more prepared for such a scenario than people in other states by virtue of having participated in vote-by-mail elections for years now. It is a regular occurrence here for results in close races to be undecided for several days. For a high-profile example, one need only look at the 4th Congressional District contest in 2018 between Ben McAdams and Mia Love, which wasn’t determined until two weeks after the election.
As they waited for all the votes to be tallied, the candidates did not claim that the drawn-out process was unfair. Rather, when it was all over, Love, who lost by fewer than 700 votes, conceded with dignity.
If the presidential contest is close, we all should call for sanity and democracy to win out as they did following that congressional race.
It’s unfortunate — though reasonable, given the circumstances — that we may not know on Tuesday who will be president for the next four years. Be aware of that going in. And be ready to exercise patience if Election Day extends into Election Week or beyond.
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