Voters wonder what’s next as presidential election result looms

DOVER — In Delaware, some waited in long lines before casting their ballots, and a surge of others placed their votes by mail — an image that was reflected across the country Tuesday.

However, while Delaware’s races were called by the end of Election Day, other states, like neighboring Pennsylvania, have dragged on the nationwide final call for the presidential race.

“Obviously, pretty quickly last night, any prospect for a landslide victory or a quick wrap-up folded pretty quickly with Florida going to (Donald) Trump,” said Dr. Paul Brewer, a professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Delaware.

As of Wednesday evening, the Associated Press had not yet called the presidential race because neither candidate had secured the 270 Electoral College votes needed for victory.

Despite President Trump’s assertion early Wednesday morning that he had beaten Joe Biden, the AP stated that his claim does not match the results and information currently available. President Trump said he would take the election to the Supreme Court, but it was unclear on what legal grounds, according to AP.

Several key states — Pennsylvania, Georgia, North Carolina and Nevada — were too close to call Wednesday night. Mr. Biden did, however, seal Wisconsin and Michigan on Wednesday afternoon.

For other states, there may not be an immediate answer. Dr. Brewer noted that Pennsylvania may not have a final count until today or Friday — something Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf advertised leading up to the election.

With previous elections concluding fairly early — not including 2016’s presidential race, which stretched into the wee hours of the following day — the nation has largely become “conditioned by some past results that come more quickly to expect perhaps early results,” Dr. Brewer said.

“I think the pressures of a 24-hour news cycle, where people can get information so quickly, to social media, as well, creates this impression of a compressed news cycle, where maybe there’s less patience than there used to be for election outcomes,” he said. “Of course, I’d reinforce the message that a lot of news media outlets are putting out there that it’s important not to make calls until all the votes are counted.”

Dr. David Redlawsk, James R. Soles Professor of Political Science and chairman for political science and international relations at the University of Delaware, also mentioned the 2016 election, which didn’t have a result until the next morning.

“We’re just not really anything out of the norm in terms of the counting process,” he said. “There’s just a lot more absentee ballot accounts, and that just slows the process down overall.”

The holdup of other states — versus, say, Delaware — calculating their results can amount to several things.

In Pennsylvania, mail-in ballots were not able to be counted prior to Election Day. In Florida, early votes were able to be processed three weeks ahead of time, Dr. Redlawsk said.

Mail-in ballots also aren’t the norm in Delaware. As of Sunday, the Delaware Department of Elections had already received nearly 153,000 ballots. In 2016, meanwhile, about 442,000 Delawareans voted overall, with roughly 5% of ballots coming in remotely.

But still, many turned out in person Tuesday.

“I think that’s partly simply because we don’t have a big history of (vote-by-mail),” Dr. Redlawsk said. “Until this election, you had to have an excuse to vote by mail.”

In Delaware, too, there wasn’t any doubt who would win the federal races, he added.

“Even when the votes aren’t fully counted, the media can officially call the race and say it’s evident that so-and-so has won,” he said. “Pennsylvania is close. Other states are close. When they’re close, you really have to wait longer to see more of the final count.”

Right now, the parallels to the 2000 election — President George W. Bush versus Al Gore — is a “rather uncanny similarity,” said Dr. Sam Hoff, George Washington Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Delaware State University.

Dr. Sam Hoff

“It’s very, very close to the 2000 election, when Bush ended up with 271 (electoral votes) and Gore ended up with 266,” he said. “And right now, we’re looking at a 271 and 267 if all those disputed states — Nevada, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona — go to Biden.”

Dr. Hoff noted that we could see similarities play out: lawsuits, recounts (which the Trump campaign has already asked for in the case of Wisconsin) and asking the Supreme Court to intervene.

That said, there are differences from the monthlong uncertainty two decades ago.

“The Florida recount in 2000 was, I think, the most dramatic example in my lifetime of election where the outcome was really in doubt,” Dr. Brewer said. “I think the way that that was covered maybe shaped perceptions of who the legitimate winner was and who wasn’t and maybe is a cautionary tale. But I think a lot of media outlets paid attention to this time around and tried to be very careful about what they said and didn’t say about making calls in close states.”

Regardless of whether Mr. Biden or President Trump is named the winner, the election will still have reverberations.

If Mr. Biden is declared the victor, he’ll likely be governing a Democrat-led House, but not a Democrat-led Senate, Dr. Brewer said.

“I think that immediately puts away any talk of getting rid of the filibuster or expanding the Supreme Court, for example,” he said. “I think those are off the table unless something really startling happens with the Senate outcome now.”

For Republicans, Dr. Brewer said the big question is: What will the Republican Party do going forward if President Trump loses?

“Trump has really kind of made the Republican Party the party of Trump over the past four or five years. If he lost in a landslide, then it would be easier for the party to kind of shake off his influence,” he said. “But if Trump wins a close election or loses a close election, and he casts doubt on that outcome, then maybe it makes it more complicated — any efforts to move away from being associated with what Trump stands for.”

For some Democrats and entities like the Lincoln Project — where people have left the Republican Party out of distaste for President Trump — their goal was “not only to defeat the president, but to defeat Trumpism, to disgrace it to the point where he couldn’t really come back into the political arena or even discussion,” Dr. Hoff said.

“And that did not happen,” he continued.

Without that landslide, if President Trump loses, he could disappear from politics or wade back “into the fray” and split the Republican Party, he said.
“That’s feasible now, that I don’t think it would have been as much if it would have been the landslide that folks were talking about,” he said.

Generally, though, President Trump has not “greatly expanded his support across the country,” Dr. Redlawsk said.

“If he were to somehow pull this out, he would still be governing with significant minority support. And I think we just see four more years of what we’ve just seen, basically,” he said. “If Joe Biden pulls it out, one of the things (that) is going to end up really important is whether in fact he can change the tone of politics in D.C. and can successfully reach across the aisle at all, because it certainly looks like Republicans are likely to hold control of the Senate.”

While Delaware stayed blue in the state — reelecting Democratic leadership such as Gov. John Carney, Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester and U.S. Sen. Chris Coons — Dr. Hoff said there remains a competitive two-party system in the state.

“Which is, in my view, an indicator of a healthy system,” he said. “It’ll be interesting to see where the Republican Party goes, boomeranging off of what could happen at the national level and how that might lead into the direction of future elections in the state.”