There isn’t going to be an election night this year. For decades, I’ve covered, and readers and viewers have eagerly awaited, election-night results. But in the race for president this year, there will not be just one night. Unless that race is a landslide, the counting and the waiting will continue, for days, weeks, maybe even longer. There will be a tsunami of mail-in ballots. Many won’t be counted by Nov. 3. So pundits, be leery of projections, and voters, be patient.
The president has suggested he might not accept the results of the election, unless he wins. He’s made unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. He’s said vote by mail won’t work, even though in states such as Washington it has worked well for years. He’s urged his supporters to man the polls. Given his ability to capture the headlines, he could even declare himself the victor that night, regardless of results.
The president’s press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has said the president is prepared to heavily litigate results in every state where he has a chance of winning. That army of litigators could make it difficult for electors of the Electoral College to do their work. More troubling than that is the warning from Miles Taylor, the president’s former chief of staff for Homeland Security, who claims that the president, given an unwelcome outcome, might encourage a fall and winter of civil unrest.
We remember the Bush v Gore race in 2000, in which the Florida results were contested. That race went on for more than a month before the U.S. Supreme Court declared George Bush the winner. Taylor warns this year’s presidential race could make that look like child’s play.
Al Gore himself, when asked recently how he regards that race 20 years later, didn’t even speak of his own disappointment. He simply urged people to vote, to vote now, and to make sure their friends and family vote.
It will be helpful to understand that unless there is a monumental landslide on Nov. 3, there will not be a final result that night in the race for president. To think about it as an election night, to talk about it that way, to write about it that way, is to play into the hands of those who have warned, even before the counting began, that if Trump doesn’t win, the election will be a fraud.
The stakes are enormous. So let all the votes be counted. Let all the voters be heard. Voters deserve a free and fair election result. Even if we all have to wait for it.