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From the CEO: Post-Election Analysis as the Dust Settles

A message from Chamber President and CEO Sandy K. Baruah. 

It is a week after the election. The robocalls and TV attack ads have stopped and the tallying of votes is nearing the end. With the picture clearing, what can we take away from Election 2020?

The Mechanics of Election 2020 Were Solid

Scenes of businesses boarding up storefronts, a fortress erected around the White House, and reports of armed so-called “poll watchers” had many concerned about election day chaos. Thankfully, elections operations across the nation were largely smooth. Diligent preparation by elections officials and the high percentage of early voting and absentee ballots made traditional election day in-person voting relatively uneventful. The Chamber applauds the hard work of elections officials, poll workers, and volunteers.

Given the variation in how each state, and even counties, treat early and absentee votes, together with the sheer number of absentee votes, the extended tallying timeline is not surprising – even expected – and there is no evidence of election irregularities or nefarious activity.

All Americans can be proud that our sacred ritual and right of peacefully choosing our leaders via private ballot continues even during times of political polarization and a global health emergency.

Voter Participation at Record Highs

The Washington Post estimates a record voter participation rate of 66.5% – with roughly 148 million Americans casting a ballot for president. This enthusiasm was seen across the nation and in both political parties; President Trump netting about 9 million more votes than his 2016 showing, and former Vice President Biden earning about 10 million more votes than former Secretary Clinton did four years ago.

Election Results Somewhat Surprising – But Clear

Joe Biden’s victory with 4.5 million more votes, a three percentage margin, and likely Electoral College count of 306 (the same as Trump’s in 2016) is a solid victory over a sitting President. Election 2020 is far from the close contests of 1960, 1968, 1976, or 2000; and more decisive than President Trump’s win four years ago.

However, the pre-election polling pointed to the possibility of a “Blue Wave” with a greater victory for Biden and stronger showings for Democrats in congressional contests. While polls are snapshots in time, the following are reasonable take-aways from polling expectation versus 2020 reality:

  • Despite the best efforts of pollsters, capturing the strength of Trump’s support remains somewhat difficult. Perhaps Trump voters are shy to disclose their voting preference and/or Trump continually surpasses expectations in his ability to bring low-propensity voters to the polls to vote for him. Despite his loss, Trump outstripped expectations.
  • Republicans did better in congressional races than expected; including John James’ effort to unseat incumbent Gary Peters. The U.S. Senate is highly likely to remain in the hands of Republicans after the two Georgia seats are decided and the Democrats actually lost seats in the U.S. House.

While intentional or not, the voters across the nation sent the message that while they wanted a new occupant in the Oval Office, they did not want massive changes elsewhere; an important message for both sides of the political aisle to heed as our new and returning elected officials head back to Washington.

Controversies

Some candidates, including the President, have yet to concede their election loss claiming irregularities or even fraud. Accusations of errors, miscounts, voter suppression, and fraud should be investigated and any inaccurate vote tallies updated. Some errors and anomalies are present in every election. But our election process, across the nation and in Michigan, has a proven record of accuracy over the long term. While such challenges will likely uncover a handful of errors and irregularities (favoring both sides), no election result is likely to be changed at the end of the day. For example, Biden’s margin of victory in Michigan and Pennsylvania is 146,000 and 45,000 respectively. While Arizona’s margin is less than 20,000, there simply has never been voter fraud of this scale in America’s history.

Voting systems, either in-person or by mail, have been proven to be secure, reliable, and accurate by numerous independent analyses. The counting of votes is also secure and not only highly structured and automated, the number of eyes (including officially designated officials from both parties) on the counting operation makes it nearly impossible for a small group of individuals to engineer election fraud. (Note: while election monitors from both parties are present during vote tallying, they are not provided free-reign in voting facilities, and these individuals are approved in advance – someone cannot simply show up on election day and demand to enter a vote counting facility. Both of these provisions help ensure the security of our ballots.)

Election processes are also highly decentralized with counts taking place at the county and sub-county level, making organized efforts to defraud the voters exceptionally unlikely.

The timing of when a vote is counted has nothing to do with its validity. Historically, ballots from military personnel posted overseas are the very last ballots to be counted; yet they carry the same value as someone who voted in person on election day. The record use of absentee ballots across the nation in 2020 has added another wrinkle to the tallying timeline; different states count their absentee ballots at different times. In Michigan and Pennsylvania, by law, the counting of absentee ballots can only commence after in-person votes have been processed. In other states, absentee ballots can be counted even before in-person voting has started.

For Election 2020, other than a very small number of circumstances, no evidence has yet been brought forward indicating substantive or organized voter fraud, and officials of both parties have expressed confidence in the integrity of the 2020 vote.

Final Thoughts

Given our highly charged political atmosphere, it can be argued that the 2020 election process has been calmer than some might have expected. President Trump, who was elected in large part due to his unorthodox approach to the presidency, is handling this transition period in similar fashion.

I had the honor of working for President George H.W. Bush. Each day, from his first day as president to his last, January 20, 1993, when he turned over the Oval Office to Bill Clinton who defeated him in his bid for re-election, it was an honor to call him my boss. Election Night 1992, when he conceded defeat to then-Governor Clinton was hard – for President Bush and those of us honored to work for him. But Bush’s gracious concession speech that night at the Houstonian Hotel not only reflected who Bush was as a man and as an American, but it also reflected the ethos of America.

While we know a transfer of power will occur in January, let’s hope that it looks like the transitions of power America rightfully has come to expect.