“Chaos Seems to Be the New Norm”: Students and Staff React to an Inconclusive Election Day As Voters Anticipate Final Results


Lukas Werner

“It’s just not very optimistic about the country moving forward, no matter who the next president is, because it just shows how divided and how split we still are,” senior Matthew Jayne said.

By Maddie Khaw, La Salle Catholic Preparatory High School

An unconventional year has brought with it an unconventional presidential election, as Americans still await voting results in several critical states, crossing fingers, biting nails, and scanning news sites and social media feeds constantly for answers as to which candidate will prevail.

Throughout the day on Wednesday, Nov. 4, The Falconer spoke with eight students and staff members to hear their thoughts on the preliminary results and widespread uncertainty about the final outcome.

“It could go either way,” senior Nick Phillips said. “It could really be a toss up, because it could come down to a two-point difference.” 

As of Wednesday evening, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. sits at 253 electoral votes, 17 away from the 270 votes needed to win. President Donald Trump follows closely behind with 214 electoral votes, fueled largely by states like Florida, Texas, and Ohio, which Democrats had hoped that Biden would be able to snag from Trump’s grip. 

Biden was able to flip Wisconsin and Michigan, however, which both went for Trump in 2016. 

Sophomore Madeline Obuchowski said that she is “a little worried” by how close the race is. “I knew it was going to be somewhat close, but I didn’t expect it to be this close,” she said. “It kind of shows how divided our country is right now.”

Phillips said that “no matter which candidate people root for,” he thinks that “there’s going to be such a divide once it’s all announced… This election just has divided us immensely,” he said.

Sophomore Yendora Young shared a similar thought. “It’s going to be a riot… regardless,” she said. “If Trump doesn’t win, the ‘Trumpsters’ are going to go crazy. And then if Biden doesn’t win, protesters are going to go crazy.”

Senior Matthew Jayne said that after Election Day, he felt “a little disappointed” and “a little disheartened.” He was “hoping for a blowout for Biden, a big win,” he said. “There are still over 60 million people in this country who feel like they can vote for [Trump]. And so, it’s just not very optimistic about the country moving forward, no matter who the next president is, because it just shows how divided and how split we still are.” 

Young, who supports Biden, said on Wednesday morning that she thinks that Trump will win the election. “He knows how to work the system,” she said. “He knows what to say to grab people’s attention. He’s very intriguing, and people gravitate towards energy like that.”

Jayne, on the other hand, said that he thought that Biden would defeat Trump, as long as the vote counting process is uninterrupted. 

“I think if they get to finish counting, if they count all the votes, Biden will win,” Jayne said. “But that’s a big ‘if.’ I think the Trump administration, like he said last night, they’re going to file suit… They want to stop states from counting all of the votes.”

Trump said that he intends to bring the election to the Supreme Court to attempt to halt vote counting in order to exclude ballots that were validly cast before polls closed, but that have not yet been counted.

After making baseless allegations of voter fraud, the Trump campaign has filed lawsuits in several states, while also announcing plans to ask for a recount in Wisconsin. These actions are part of the attack that Trump has been building on the legitimacy of voting processes in states vital to his hopes of re-election.

“The damage has already been done to the integrity of our system, and to the Presidential Election itself,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday evening. There is no evidence to support Trump’s claims of widespread election fraud, though false rumors, such as ones about Sharpie pens invalidating votes and Pennsylvania ballots being thrown in the trash, have circulated widely on social media.

“I think that’s wrong,” Jayne said in regards to the Trump campaign’s actions to impede vote counting. “It’s a basic democratic process to count all the votes, and it’s almost authoritarian for the president to claim that he wants to stop that… I think it’s really just terrible that people are trying… to attack mail-in voting and discredit it. I think it’s a form of voter suppression. They’re trying to disenfranchise all these people who weren’t able to vote in person.”

Throughout the election process, Trump has repeatedly sought to delegitimize the voting process by falsely and prematurely asserting victory and tweeting out untrue claims, such as that Democrats are trying to “STEAL the election.”

Freshman Maria Rohe said that this statement was “unfair” and that “he really has no proof in saying that.”

Rohe is correct that Trump has no proof backing his claim that Democrats are trying to “steal” his votes. He claimed on Tuesday that he had already won the election — when in reality, millions of votes were yet to be counted — by falsely equating the counting of ballots after Election Day with the casting of ballots after Election Day. 

“You would think you want to have the votes counted, tabulated, finished by the evening of Nov. 3,” Trump said in the weeks prior to Tuesday.

But to have all votes counted by midnight of Election Day, a New York Times article explains, “is not possible and never has been. No state ever reports final results on election night, and no state is legally expected to.” 

Rather, the reason that Americans are accustomed to discovering election results on the night of the election itself is because “news organizations project winners based on partial counts, not because the counting is actually completed that quickly,” the article said.

This year, the counting is taking longer than usual because of the influx of mail-in voting due to the coronavirus pandemic. Absentee ballots take longer to process and validate, and in multiple states, there have been initiatives from Republicans to undermine the validity of mail-in ballots.

“I’m hearing a lot of different stories,” junior Akhil Casper said. “People are saying it’s not accurate right now, but later it will become accurate, so it caused some confusion for me. I don’t know. Hopefully that will get settled, but it’s kind of confusing right now.”

Biden has encouraged patience from his supporters, and also said that he is “confident” that his campaign will “emerge victorious” during a speech in Wilmington, Delaware on Tuesday night.

“I’m not here to declare that we’ve won, but I am here to report that when the count is finished, we believe we will be the winners,” Biden said. “Every vote must be counted.”

“Here, the people rule,” he said. “Power can’t be taken or asserted. It flows from the people. And it’s their will that determines who will be the president of the United States, and their will alone.”

Casper said that he agrees with this statement from Biden.

“It’s really up to the voters,” Casper said. “It’s not up to Trump or Biden. Whoever’s going to win the election, [it] should be up to the voters. No matter what Trump says about ‘we already won’ or something, it’s really like, we won’t know until the very end, until all the votes are in and we know everything.”

Rohe also agreed that the outcome is up to neither Trump nor Biden, but to the American people. “I think that that’s really accurate and that’s super true,” Rohe said. “[Biden] didn’t say it like Trump did — he didn’t say, ‘oh, we already won,’ so I think that was a much better approach because… what he said was true, he is on the path to winning, he’s really close. So that wasn’t a lie, unlike what Trump said.”

Jayne said that he is concerned that in the case that Trump loses, he will not accept this loss without a legal battle, as Trump has refused multiple times to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.

If Biden loses, Jayne predicts that he will “keep fighting, he’ll file suit if he needs to,” Jayne said. “But if it comes out that all the votes are counted, and he still loses, I think there is a certain point where he will concede — he’ll have no choice. But I don’t think that point exists for Trump.”

Rohe predicts that there will be protests and riots after the outcome of the election is announced, no matter who the winner is. “That’s really sad, that that’s what this has come to,” she said. “Our election, which is supposed to be something really fun and interesting, has turned into this big problem now… just because someone didn’t like who was chosen or something. That just seems very childish… I don’t think our world should be based on fear and anger.” 

Social studies teacher Ms. Mallory Spanjer said that she hopes that the country can move forward peacefully no matter which candidate is elected.

“But at the same time, you have to acknowledge that this is a really, really polarized time in our country,” Ms. Spanjer said. “It’s something that I haven’t seen before… There are just so many questions. I want us all to be united. Unfortunately, we’re not right now.”

If disorder and conflict erupt after the results are announced, it would not be out of line with the tune of the election thus far, social studies teacher Mr. Peter Snow said.

“The whole election in general… it’s been pretty chaotic,” he said. “Chaos seems to be the new norm… If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the election this year, predictions are just kind of an exercise in futility. It’s a way to set yourself up to be disappointed.”

Mr. Snow has been discussing the election with students in his government classes, as part of his elections and campaigns unit. 

“Every election that takes place is kind of like a little bit of a laboratory that we can look at and study and kind of dissect the elements of the election,” he said. 

Mr. Snow said that the election is very relevant to students in his government classes, and that there are a handful of students who are now eligible to vote for the first time.

“There’s a lot of people who, for the very first time, are weighing these decisions because they’re the ones that are going to be filling out that ballot,” he said.

Ms. Spanjer said that in her classes, she has taken a two-week break from normal curriculum plans to discuss and examine the election, with a variety of activities for students such as watching videos, taking a political spectrum quiz, and reading news articles.

“I’m trying to treat the election and political parties and different points of view as something that’s interesting, that’s cool,” Ms. Spanjer said. “Because it is. I think it is really interesting that we have different beliefs in this country… I think it’s really important that we can acknowledge our differences and accept different points of view.”

This story was originally published on The La Salle Falconer on November 4, 2020.