As of Wednesday morning, there is no clear winner yet in the US presidential race. While Republicans were forecast by pollsters to have a rough night on Tuesday, the race ended up being significantly closer than many expected.
At the time of this writing, it appears as though Joe Biden has more likely paths to victory than the incumbent Donald Trump. However, early Wednesday morning, Trump declared a premature victory and demanded the vote tallying be stopped and all states be called at their current counts.
However, this move drew swift criticism from both sides of the aisle. Many mail-in ballots are still being counted in states like Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Wisconsin.
While Trump has some paths to victory, most of them require him to win Pennsylvania, and the Keystone State appears to be neck and neck right now. Elsewhere, in North Carolina and Georgia, Trump appears to be ahead. In Nevada and Wisconsin, however, Biden currently leads.
The presidential race is a strange beast: it’s decided not by popular vote, like most elections, but instead by the Electoral College. It’s a bizarre system that weights each state by population (in theory) and gives it a share of Electoral College voters.
Then, depending on the state, they can either apportion their Electors based on the percentage of votes for each candidate, or simply give all of their votes to the candidate that wins the popular vote in their state.
In this way, candidates are fighting more over individual battleground states than they are trying to win over the American people as a whole. Voters in Alabama, for instance, typically vote for Republicans, so it’s unlikely for Democrats to spend much time there.
Swing states like Pennsylvania, on the other hand, receive the laser focus of both parties, as it awards a staggering 20 electors of the 270 needed to win the presidency.
The most notable takeaway from last night’s election, however, was just how deeply divided the US currently is. Election returns show historic voter turnout, with Republican strongholds showing up in force while urban centers saw more voters than ever casting Democratic ballots.
The deep divisions of the past four years have only been exacerbated by the events of the past year, including the coronavirus pandemic and protests for racial justice throughout the summer.
For now, however, even something as basic as “who won the election?” is a partisan question that can trigger a wave of argument and discussion.