Illustration by Dhabia Al Mansoori

The U.S. Elections, Explained

Election day becomes election week as Joe Biden is confirmed as the next president of the United States. The Gazelle brings you a summary of what has happened so far and how NYU Abu Dhabi students feel amidst the election.

Nov. 3, 2020 marked election day in the United States, a moment tensely anticipated by the country and the rest of the world.
Incumbent President Donald Trump, following a tumultuous four years of increasingly partisan politics and an impeachment process, faced a strong challenge from former Vice President Joe Biden. Biden had emerged earlier in the year from a primary field of 27 candidates, with the Democratic party reaching all its factions to coalesce behind him.
Before Nov. 3, election polls — inaccurate for a second consecutive presidential cycle — projected that Biden would be ahead in key states, and even lead by a single point in Florida.
On election day, what has been described as an “unfamiliar danger” was felt across the nation. Storefronts in big U.S. cities like Boston, New York, Chicago and Washington D.C were boarded up in anticipation, gun sales surged and election anxiety was at a new high for many.
On Nov. 3, a few key states — including Florida, Ohio and Texas — were confirmed early in favor of Trump. However, other battleground states — Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada — have taken longer to count mail-in ballots. The delay that would push the traditional timeline of calling the race was well anticipated, with each state having different rules for when ballots could be returned and reported.
“I told myself to be patient, to wait four days until most of the mail-ins had been counted to assess the situation,” shared Ian Hoyt, Class of 2021.
More people chose to vote-by-mail than in previous years due to the ongoing Covid-19 public health crisis, with Democrats disproportionately utilizing mail-in ballots.
“Even now that it seems Biden has been elected, I find that even that timeline was far too short — there will be disputes, there will be recounts, there will be court battles,” said Hoyt, referencing the multiple lawsuits already filed by the Trump campaign over the integrity of the voting process. “This will go on for weeks, maybe months,” added Hoyt.
Trump’s lead in battleground states slowly dwindled as more mail-in ballots were tabulated. “I was very familiar with and prepared for the idea of a red mirage, with mail in ballots coming in later leaning more blue,” explained Katarina Holzapple, Class of 2020, who is currently working with a nonpartisan nonprofit focused on youth voting and political power, adding, “I underestimated how long these days would feel.”
On Nov. 4, Biden was the confirmed winner of Wisconsin, then Michigan, making his path to 270 electoral votes clearer, despite Trump’s premature claim of victory early Wednesday morning.
On Nov. 7, the race was called in favor of Biden, with Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes securing his win. “Pennsylvania was considered part of the Democratic Blue Wall stronghold until 2016 when Trump flipped the state after decades of voting blue for the president,” explained Simran Parwani, Class of 2021, who grew up in Pittsburgh. “How people vote is complicated by the fact that Biden is from Pennsylvania, there is a large presence of older voters and a decline in union membership which historically have organized for Democrats.”
Georgia would also be a historic win for Biden; no Democrat has won the state in a presidential election since 1992. “I honestly had [hoped] that Georgia would be flipping blue this election cycle, just because of how close it was in 2016 and 2018,” Reema Kaiali, Class of 2020, described. “But cautiously hopeful.”
Kaiali contributes the blue win to voter mobilization, which many attribute to the work of Stacey Abrams, whose organization registered over 800,000 new voters. “I honestly didn’t know you could vote early before this election,” added Kaiali. “The fact that it became such a big thing clearly helped move Biden.”
Kaiali also stated that in urban centers such as Atlanta, the Black Lives Matter movement and premature reopening of the state by Republican Governor Brian Kemp were huge mobilizers. “We need change, or people are going to keep dying,” she explained. “People voted, and they voted down the ballot,” she added, referencing the two Georgia Senate seats going to a runoff election in January.
Trump has hinted at the possibility of bringing it to the Supreme Court if recounts or legal challenges narrow the electoral college count, which is reminiscent of the 2000 election.
No matter the immediate results, the divisions in the country do not appear to be resolved anytime soon. “Even if Trump does step down in January, he is still going to be a public figure with a great deal of political influence, and of the 70 million people who preferred to employ him over the president-elect, many will have lost all faith in the country’s institutions of democracy,” explained Hoyt. “That’s what is concerning to me long term — how can we reasonably govern ourselves when the values, information and experience of one half of the country are utterly incomprehensible to the other?”
Caroline Sullivan is Senior Features Editor. Email her feedback at
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